Fred Gray (LAW ’54, HON ’92) is best known as a Civil Rights hero who fought relentlessly for the equality of African Americans in the U.S. Court of Law. The first black president of the Alabama Bar Association, Gray argued before the Supreme Court the unconstitutionality of Tuskegee-based rezoning laws created by local officials that would leave African-Americans out of elections. He also was one of the first two African-Americans to serve in the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction.
“Fred Gray exemplifies the best of Case Western Reserve. He used the knowledge he gained on our campus to pursue equality and justice with remarkable passion—and effectiveness,” President Barbara R. Snyder said.
Gray’s legacy as an advocate and activist throughout his career is carried forward through the Fred Gray Scholarship, designated to aid underrepresented students in their second year at the CWRU School of Law. This scholarship is another example of Gray’s dedication to equality and justice for the underserved.
“Let us not assume for one moment that our work is done, the struggle for equal justice continues.”
The legal work of Gray, the Alabama attorney for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, put him in the throes of the civil rights movement. He was pivotal in paving the way for the peaceful march following a “Bloody Sunday” start in the journey from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Gray’s contributions extended to four landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings that dramatically reshaped civil rights law in Alabama.
“Fred Gray’s story is that of an idealist deeply committed to the law as a way of righting wrongs and promoting justice for African Americans,” Jonathan Entin, professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, writes in his “Destroying Everything Segregated I Could Find: Fred Gray and the Legal Campaign for Integration in Alabama.”
Among his many honors, Gray has received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, the Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award from the Federal Bar Association, the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion from Harvard Law School, the Centennial Medal from Case Western Reserve School of Law, and a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Case Western Reserve Alumni Association and numerous honorary degrees.