Longtime Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray remembers former client, friend John Lewis

Longtime Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray remembers former client, friend John Lewis

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Attorney Fred Gray spoke to Congressman John Lewis about a week before his death. Gray not only represented Lewis during two historic cases during the civil rights movement, but the two became friends.

Just days before his death, Lewis made one request of Gray: keep the fight going.

“Oh I met him at the bus station,” Gray said.

Gray remembers the moment they met. Lewis wanted help getting into segregated Troy State and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gray had a plan. King sent Lewis a round trip bus ticket from Troy to Montgomery where they met. Gray was going to file a lawsuit.

But, the lawsuit was never filed. Since Lewis was a minor his parents would have to be named in the lawsuit, but they were reluctant to get involved.

“When he went home and talked to his parents he called Dr. King back and said he was sorry but his parents felt they couldn’t stand the pressure,” Gray recalled.

But, Gray would file a lawsuit on behalf of Lewis, against the Greyhound Bus Corporation. It successfully desegregated buses throughout the country. But, it came with a price. Lewis and other Freedom Riders were severely beaten by a mob during a trip to Montgomery.

“No police were around at all,” Gray said. “They knew they were coming and as a result of that he was severely beaten.”

Attorney Fred Gray shares memories of Congressman John Lewis

From buses to voting rights, John Lewis didn’t stop his crusade to fight segregation. In 1965, one day after Bloody Sunday, Gray filed another lawsuit on behalf of Lewis and others in a case that would allow marchers to peacefully cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“The rest of the story is all history,” Gray said. “You know they went from Selma to Montgomery.”

It was an historic moment that led to the voting rights act.

Before Lewis passed away, Gray had a chance to speak to him by phone and he asked him how he could carry on his cause.

“He said ‘Brother, keep going, keep pushing and set the record straight,’” said Gray.

Gray said his last personal appearance with Lewis was last December when the two were at the Library of Congress for the unveiling of personal documents that belonged to Rosa Parks, whom Gray represented during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

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