Fred Gray: The Hero Lawyer?Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Black History, Contemporary Ethics, Fred Gray, Race Relations, Restoration History
On December 1, 1955, a tired Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white individual on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Four days later the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott began on December 5; thus emerged the long and treacherous voyage to Civil Rights (Justice) in America. Martin Luther King, Jr was thrust upon America and the pages of history at the young age of 26!
Fred Gray: The Hero Lawyer?
It is not uncommon to find people joking about the oxymoron of a “Christian” lawyer. This joke is rooted in the myth that the typical lawyer is basically in it for money. Lots of money. So is it possible for a lawyer to be not only a devoted Christian but also a hero? May I suggest that Fred D. Gray is such a man.
Fred Gray was born on December 14, 1930 in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1943 he moved to Nashville to attend Marshall Keeble’s Nashville Christian Institute. While at the Institute he became one of Keeble’s “Boy Preachers” that traveled the country with Keeble.
Fred’s Dream, Other’s Nightmare
But Fred had a dream. Some might have thought it was a nightmare rather than a dream. But it was his dream. His dream was to kill segregation. He was unable to attend colleges in the South and no law school would allow him in. But the Lord blessed Gray and he attended Western Reserve University to obtain his law degree in 1954.
Back in Montgomery, the fresh out of college lawyer had his first client in August of 1954 and opened his office in September. In little over a year Gray would be involved in a brief, but epic making case. On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. She was arrested and her attorney, the young 25 year old Gray was called to the scene. A day or two later Fred hatched the idea of the Montgomery Improvement Association which then asked the equally young Martin Luther King, Jr to be its spokesperson.
The wheels were set in motion, there was no turning back. America has never been the same. Fred Gray would represent King in his frequent arrests. Famously he represented those on that bloody Sunday in March 1965 who walked toward the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In landmark cases Gray desegregated Alabama public schools. Fred was also legal counsel for those abused in the Tuskegee Syphilis “Study.” His cases have changed the face of America.
The Gospel Demands It
Gray was continually in the struggle for biblical justice and equality from the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement to the present day. This was done, Gray notes, precisely because of his Christian convictions. In sharp contrast to most white preachers, Fred Gray insisted the Bible demanded it! Remember at the same time Fred was always that “boy preacher” too. He says that “Jesus Christ is and always has been the center of my life” (Bus Ride to Justice, p. 254). He served as the minister for the Newton Church of Christ from 1957 to November 5, 1973. In the 1970s Fred Gray led the way for the union of two racially diverse churches in Tuskegee, Alabama: the Newton Church of Christ and the East End Church of Christ, a white congregation. This merger took place in November 1974. Gray testifies to his greatest
accomplishment “not only was I able to destroy segregation in government, education and transportation, but also in the church” (Bus Ride, p. 260).
Because of his achievements on behalf of not only African Americans but all humanity, Fred D. Gray was honored with The William Robert Ming Advocacy Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during the group’s 97th annual convention in Washington on July 17, 2006.
Can a Lawyer Be a Christian?
I have met Fred Gray one time in my life and he was one of the most humble people I have ever had the privilege to encounter. No one deserves this honor more than he. Can a lawyer be a Christian? Fred Gray shows that Christian commitment can define a lawyer. Can a lawyer be a hero? Fred Gray has shown us that at least some lawyers are worthy of the title “hero.” I am proud to call Fred my brother in the Lord.
Perhaps you would like to visit Fred’s website or read his book Bus Ride to Justice. I recommend you do both. You can order his book off of his website at the following address: http://www.fredgray.net/welcome.html