He’s been fighting for our rights for nearly 70 years!
Fred Gray is an iconic civil rights attorney best known for his work as legal counsel for Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Claudette Colvin. Gray was instrumental in the civil rights movement, opening his own private practice in Alabama where he helped fight for voting rights, and against segregation in education. Gray was elected to the Alabama legislature in 1970, becoming one of the first two Black officials to serve in the legislature since Reconstruction. At the age of 92, Gray continues to practice law and was recently honored for his work by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, awarded the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award for his innumerable contributions, Black Enterprise reports.
“I have received many awards, but none of these awards…means to me as much as this award coming from the Legal Defense Fund here in honor of Thurgood Marshall, Gray said during his acceptance speech.
Gray attended the 35th National Equal Justice Awards Dinner in New York where he was honored, speaking to his time as “Chief Counsel” of the civil rights movement and why he dedicated his life to this work.
“I became a lawyer in Montgomery, Alabama when I saw we were having problems on the buses. They said lawyers help people solve problems, so I decided to become a lawyer, and not just a lawyer anywhere; I wanted to become a lawyer in Alabama and destroy everything segregated I could find, and in 67 years I’ve done that,” said Gray.
Throughout those nearly seven decades, Gray has worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund time and time again, providing counsel for the local NAACP branch and NAACP state conference, in addition to their coordination around the Montgomery Bus Boycott, helping to desegregate the bus system, and winning a $10 million settlement for Tuskegee experiment survivors and their families in 1974. Last year, President Joe Biden awarded Gray with the Presidential Medal of Freedom alongside Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founding member Diane Nash, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and legendary actor Denzel Washington.
“When Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, and other giants of our history needed a lawyer for their fight for freedom, you know who they called? They called a guy named Fred Gray, that’s who they called,” Biden said during the ceremony.
Gray will turn 93 this December and we look forward to continuing to pay homage to this giant of a man.
Cover photo: NAACP Legal Defense Fund honors civil rights attorney Fred Gray with lifetime achievement award/Fred Gray speaks about former client Claudette Colvin’s petition for juvenile record expungement on October 26, 2021 at Montgomery County Family Court/Photo Courtesy of Julie Bennett/Getty Images