Civil rights attorney Fred Gray will be honored with a Living Legends award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
Gray represented civil rights heroes like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and E.D. Nixon, playing a pivotal role in the desegregation of public buses and schools in Alabama.
Gray was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1970 and served for about 44 years until 2015. Gray and Thomas Reed were the first two African Americans to serve on the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction.
Gray will receive the Living Legend Award on Friday at the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) 43rd Annual Legislative Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Last year’s award was presented to David Dinkins, the first black mayor of New York City.
Gray represented four women in the Browder v. Gayle case that ended with the United States Supreme Court order that Alabama abolish segregation on public buses. He represented students denied admission to Alabama colleges based on race. He also secured a settlement for 72 of the hundreds of African American men who thought they were receiving free health care in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In 2002, Gray became the first African American president of the Alabama Bar Association.
“From your days defending civil rights stalwarts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, to the crucial role you played in the successful desegregation of Montgomery buses and protecting the rights of those involved in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to your time as a member of the Alabama State Legislature, to your historic election as president of the Alabama Bar Association, your career has been nothing short of legendary and noteworthy,” NBCSL president Gilda Cobb-Hunter wrote Gray in a letter.
Gray praised the legislators of the NBCSL in a phone call with the Advertiser on Monday.
“They are the ones on the front lines. It’s their responsibility to go ahead and do what can be done to complete the job that we started many years ago,” Gray said.