African American History Month
Fred David Gray is a prominent Alabama Civil Rights attorney whose clients were an whose who of the Civil Rights Movement. When he opened his office in 1954, in Montgomery, Alabama, he was one of a few African American attorneys in the state. His career blossomed in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, however, helping to dismantle the state’s position on segregation. He also played a pivotal role in other notable cases of that era.
Less than a year out of law school the twenty-four year old Gray, represented Claudette Colvin and Rosa Park in the now famous action that initiated the Civil Rights Movement. He was Martin Luther King’s first civil rights lawyer even defending him against tax evasion charges. This was just the start of a legal career that has spanned more than forty-five years.
Gray was born in the Washingto Park section of Montgomery on Dec 14, 1930, to Abraham and Nancy Jones Gray. He was a gifted child who entered his Aunt’s first-grade class at Love School at the age of five. After he completed the seventh grade, he attended the Nashville Christian Institute (NCI) a boarding school operated by the Church of Christ for African Americans and completed his coursework early. He enrolled in the Alabama State College shortly before his 17 birthday.
After a teacher pressed, Gray entered law school, gaining entrance to Cleveland’s Western Reserve University (Case Wester Reserve University) He returned to Montgomery so he could fight the city’s segregation laws.
Gray Notable Cases
1950 Attorney for Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Montgomery Bus Boycott participants.1955–1956
Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court held City Ordinances requiring segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama to be unconstitutional. 1956.
1960 The United States Supreme Court rendered a decision on the legal case argued by Gray, that laid the foundation for the concept of “one man, one vote”, Gomillion v. Lightfoot.1960
United States Supreme Court ruled in NAACP v. State of Alabama that the NAACP could resume doing business of protecting the rights of African Americans in Alabama.1964
Supreme Court ruled in Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education—students are entitled to a due process hearing prior to expulsion. 1961
Vivian Malone v. Dean of Admissions, University of Alabama – This case opened the door for African Americans to attend the University of Alabama in spite of Governor Wallace’s infamous school door stand. 1963
Franklyn v. Auburn University – This case opened the door for African Americans to attend Auburn University.1963
Lee v. Macon – A statewide order requiring all public elementary and secondary schools not under a court order must desegregate. 1963–1968
Gray represented freedom marchers in the state of Alabama. Freedom walkers and freedom riders needed legal action to provide protection as they participated in the Selma to Montgomery March, which subsequently led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. 1965
1970 Elected to the Alabama State Legislature – One of the first African Americans to serve since reconstruction. 1979
Represented the participants in the notorious Tuskegee Syphilis Study. 1972
1990 Initiated actions that resulted in a formal apology at the White House from the United States government for the wrongs done to the participants in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. 1997
Established the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. 1997
Author of Book – The Tuskegee Syphilis Study. 1998
Copyright © 2013 Glynis Rankin