Ray O'Connor was born in Perth. He attended convent and government schools in the wheatbelt towns of Narrogin and York, and St Patrick's Boys' school in Perth.
O'Connor joined the Australian Army and served in the intelligence section of the AIF where his commanding officer was Sir Charles Court.
It is said that O'Connor's late father, a former policeman, encouraged his son to start a political career because of his own disillusionment with H.V. Evatt's leadership of the ALP.
Before entering Parliament O'Connor won distinction as a sportsman - he was a State champion in athletics for hurdles and discus and also a good footballer for the East Perth club.
His first attempt to enter Parliament failed when he stood as an Independent Liberal candidate for the Metropolitan Province in the Legislative Council.
He joined the Liberal Party in 1957 and in the general election of 1959 he was elected MLA for North Perth, defeating a Labor man who had held the seat for 26 years.
O'Connor became Premier on the resignation of Sir Charles Court. He was defeated at the polls after just more than a year in office in 1983.
In the 1990s, he hit the headlines when he was found guilty of stealing a $25,000 Bond Corporation cheque, part of the WA Inc scandal. He served six months in gaol.