We Remember: Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III

William H. Gray III, the first African American Majority Whip has passed away suddenly at age 71, Monday, July 1, 2013.
Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III, the first African American Majority Whip has passed away suddenly at age 71, Monday, July 1, 2013.

One of our most influential politicians and former member of Congress has passed away.

Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III, suddenly died while with one of his sons in London at the Wimbledon tennis championship, Monday.  He was 71.  But Gray was much more than a politician as he lived a multi-faceted life as a businessman and pastor.

Gray was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and graduated from Franklin & Marshall College.  He also attended Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey City, New Jersey, before entering politics and being elected as a Democrat to Congress in 1978.  He  rose through the ranks of politics rapidly serving as chairman of the powerful budget committee and became the first African American Majority Whip of the U.S. House.

But Gray was not only a politician,  he stood at the helm of his father’s church Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia
from 1972 to 2007 as pastor; commuting back to Philadelphia to give his sermons on Sunday’s.  But in 1991, he felt a more powerful calling than politics when he resigned from Congress to run the United Negro College Fund, where, according to his bio, he raised more than $2.3 billion for minority institutions.  But he returned to a role in politics by serving as a temporary special adviser on Haiti in 1994, by request of then President Bill Clinton. He also founded Gray Global Advisors, a business and consulting firm where he was chairman emeritus at the time of his death.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has ordered flags at all city buildings to begin flying at half-staff today.  He referred to Gray as “a transformative leader among leaders.”

“He knew guys on the corner, and he knew Nelson Mandela and everyone in between,” Nutter said in a statement. “He created a political organization that for decades has continued to be one of the most powerful, productive and progressive forces in the social and political life of our city’s history.”

Gray’s sudden passing is a tremendous loss and shock throughout the political world and his church.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., called Gray “a tireless advocate for the people of Philadelphia and a trailblazer for a new generation of African American elected officials….He could walk down the hallway, and everybody knew him, he knew everyone,” said Congressman Bob Brady. “I’m absolutely positively shocked. It’s a major, major loss to the city, to the area and to the nation.”

Read more about his life here and watch the report below.  He is survived by his three sons and his mother.

-J.C. Brooks


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