Fred Gray, a Tuskegee attorney who was the legal engine of the Civil Rights Movement, representing Rosa Parks, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a host of other Black men and women challenging racist laws in the Jim Crow South, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Biden White House made the official announcement on Friday morning, ending years of campaigning by those familiar with Gray’s work to get the 91-year-old the national recognition he deserves.
“When the time comes I am going to accept this honor on behalf the men and women of the Tuskegee syphilis study, who helped establish the Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center as a lasting symbol so those who come later will remember the contributions of others,” Gray said Friday morning.
Gray’s legal victories in the 1950s and 60s paved the way for some of the most famous civil rights victories and protests, including securing the federal court order allowing marchers to walk safely from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. That march led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act.
Gray also was instrumental in the planning and execution of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which many credit with starting the Civil Rights Movement.
He also won court victories that desegregated Alabama’s public schools and colleges and helped King win acquittal from tax evasion charges from an all-white Alabama jury.
Later, Gray represented many of the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis study.