Fred D. Gray

Activist / Civil Rights Figure / Lawyer
Date Of Birth:
14 December 1930
Place Of Birth:
Montgomery, Alabama
Best Known As:
The lawyer for Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks
Fred D. Gray is an Alabama attorney who has been at the center of the fight for racial justice since the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the 1950s. Among his first clients as a lawyer were Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Gray grew up poor in Alabama, the youngest of five children whose father died when he was two years old. As a young teen, he was sent to a Christian school; as a student he traveled as a “boy preacher” and went on to become a Church of Christ minister in 1957. He also graduated from Alabama State College for Negroes (now Alabama State University) in 1951, followed by law school at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve School of Law. Fresh after passing the Alabama and Ohio bar exams, one of Gray’s first court cases was representing teenager Claudette Colvin, who had been arrested in 1955 in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. Gray represented Rosa Parks several months later on the same charge, an event that led to a boycott of the city’s bus system — led by 26 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. — and the eventual dismantling of Montgomery’s segregation laws. Gray spent his entire career on desegregation and was at the center of many of the legal strategies used in the Civil Rights movement. Fred Gray also represented 623 black men who thought the U.S. Public Health Service was treating them for syphilis, when in fact they were part of a decades-long study of the effects of syphilis when untreated. Gray secured a $10 million settlement and in 1997 President Bill Clinton officially apologized on behalf of the United States.
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