The street Fred Gray grew up on now bears his name.
The Montgomery City Council voted Tuesday night to rename Jeff Davis Ave., removing the confederate president’s name and changing it instead to Fred Gray Ave.
“It is important for us to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of attorney Gray,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said during Tuesday’s meeting. “He returned here with the goal of destroying everything segregated, and he did all he could. I think this is very important for the young people who not only grow up in that part of the city, but in all parts of the city, to see the way he changed this country and overcame obstacles, but did so with class and dignity. It’s very, very important.
“I just feel that it will be a tremendous tribute for someone who has done so much for this city, this state and this nation.”
The council vote approving the name change was unanimous. Two of Gray’s adult children, Fred Gray Jr. and Stanley Gray, were in attendance and held new street signs bearing their father’s name.
Gray was the most influential attorney of the Civil Rights Movement. He represented Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. He filed the lawsuit, Browder v. Gayle, that ultimately desegregated Montgomery’s buses. He filed the federal lawsuit that allowed marchers to safely travel from Selma to Montgomery. He filed the lawsuit that desegregated Alabama’s colleges and desegregated more than 100 individual school systems. He filed the lawsuit that allowed the NAACP to operate in Alabama.
Gray also served as Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal attorney and successfully defended him against tax evasion charges in the 1960s.
Gray famously said he returned to Alabama after receiving his law degree with the intention of “destroying everything segregated.” His efforts to do so were largely successful and ultimately changed not only Alabama but the entire country.