Attorney Fred Gray Still Fighting for Civil Rights at 91Breaking News
tags: civil rights, law
On a recent summer day, President Joe Biden awarded the nation's highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — to civil rights lawyer Fred Gray.
While Gray may not be as well known as other giants of the civil rights movement — names like John Lewis, Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — his legacy is no less vital.
"One of the most important civil rights lawyers in our history, Fred's legal brilliance and strategy desegregated schools and secured the right to vote," Biden said during last month's Medal of Freedom ceremony. "An ordained minister, he imbued a righteous calling that touched the soul of our nation."
Fresh out of law school, Gray represented 15 year-old Claudette Colvin, who was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person — nine months before Parks did the same thing.
During the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. that Gray helped organize, he defended Parks and the others who were arrested for participating — including King, who once called Gray the "chief counsel" of the protest movement.
If Gray's life had a motto, it would be, as he often says, "To destroy everything segregated I could find." But growing up in Montgomery in the 1930s and 40s, Gray says he wasn't thinking about presidential medals. "It just was a matter of a Black boy living in a Black community where everything was completely segregated."