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Congresswoman seeks Presidential Medal of Freedom for Fred Gray, 91

Longtime Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray, seen here in this file photo remembering his former...
Longtime Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray, seen here in this file photo remembering his former client and friend, John Lewis, turns 91 on Dec. 14. The push is on to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 4:30 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - U.S. Rep Terri Sewell, D-District 7, took the U.S. House Floor Wednesday looking for a birthday present for a civil rights icon who is about to celebrate his 91st birthday.

Sewell spoke of attorney Fred Gray, whose birthday is Dec. 14, and again used her time to urge President Joe Biden to award the Montgomery native with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Gray, who was born in 1930 and raised on Montgomery’s Jefferson Davis Avenue, recently saw the street renamed for himself. As an attorney, Gray successfully litigated a number of groundbreaking civil rights cases, which led to the desegregation of public buses and the integration of the University of Alabama, Auburn University, and Alabama’s public schools. He represented such civil rights giants as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther, Jr. and John Lewis and others.

Sewell first asked Biden to award the medal to Gray in a February letter.

Her entire Floor speech reads:

“Rep. Sewell: Mister Speaker, I rise to honor a true American hero and one of our nation’s most distinguished civil rights lawyers, Attorney Fred Gray Sr., as he celebrates his 91st birthday on December 14, 2021.

A native of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, Attorney Gray was born in Montgomery and came of age during the height of the Jim Crow segregation era.

One of Alabama’s first Black lawyers, he successfully litigated groundbreaking civil rights cases, representing the likes of Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, Rev. Martin Luther King, and even our own John Lewis and those protestors that dared to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. His trailblazing work dared this Nation to live up to its highest ideals, leading to the desegregation of public buses and the integration of the University of Alabama, Auburn University, and Alabama’s public schools.

Attorney Gray’s long and accomplished career fought back against injustice wherever it existed. To paraphrase one of his clients, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Attorney Gray was a “drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.”

As we celebrate another year of Attorney Gray’s life, it is my hope that President Biden will strongly consider awarding him our nation’s highest civilian honor–the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There is no one more deserving.

Let’s give him his flowers as he lives. Thank you, and I yield back.”

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