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Lawmaker calls for Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray to receive Medal of Freedom

Fred Gray is a former state legislator, civil rights attorney, National Bar Association president and Civil Rights leader.


A Michigan lawmaker is calling for Civil Rights Movement icon and Montgomery attorney Fred Gray to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. State Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson, D-Detroit, is calling for President Joe Biden to honor civil rights attorney Gray with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“It’s hard to believe a man like Fred Gray has not received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Johnson said. “It’s even more shocking when you think about the racists and bigots who have received this honor over someone who fought for justice and equality his entire life. As an attorney and civil rights activist, Mr. Gray spent his life defending the rights of Black people and played a pivotal role in giving us the voice we have today. Granting him the Presidential Medal of Freedom is one small act to show America’s appreciation for his integrity and bravery.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded by the president of the United States to recognize people who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, has also asked Biden to give Gray the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“As a Black lawyer and as Alabama’s first Black Congresswoman, I am a direct beneficiary of Attorney Fred Gray’s lifelong work in the fight for justice, inclusion and equity for all. His litigation in groundbreaking cases like Browder v. Gayle can be seen as not only directly responsible for integrating institutions in Alabama, but all across America,” Sewell said. “An iconic figure and pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, I can think of few people more deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom than Attorney Fred Gray. It is my hope President Joe Biden will award Attorney Gray this prestigious honor to recognize him as a true American patriot and for the historic contributions he made to the betterment of our democracy.”

Gray was born in Montgomery on Dec. 14, 1930. Gray has had a  65-year career as a civil rights lawyer. In his career, he has defended numerous clients in Alabama and beyond including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Numerous Grey successfully secured an injunction for the marchers from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. He also was the attorney that desegregated most of the school systems in Alabama.

Gray was one of the first African Americans to serve in the Alabama state Legislature since Reconstruction. He served from 1970 to 1974. He was also a president of the National Bar Association.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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