Black News and News Makers in History: William H. Gray III

Black news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes William Herbert Gray III this week in Black history.William Herbert Gray III was born on August 20, 1941 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The second child of Dr. William H. Gray, Jr., and Hazel Yates Gray, he had an older sister, Marion. William Gray spent the first nine years of his life in St. Augustine, and Tallahassee, Florida, where his father served as president of Florida Normal and Industrial College (now Florida Memorial College) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Florida A& M University). His mother was a high school teacher and once served as dean of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

When William Gray III's grandfather and namesake died in 1949, the Grays moved to North Philadelphia, where William Gray, Jr., took over his father's pastoral position at Bright Hope Baptist Church, which William Gray, Sr., had held since 1925.

William Gray III graduated from Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia in 1959 and earned a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1963. Gray majored in sociology, but one of his professors encouraged him to become involved in politics. During his senior year in college, Gray interned for Philadelphia Representative Robert N. C. Nix. Gray is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

After college, Gray followed his father and grandfather into the ministry. He received a master's degree in divinity from Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey, in 1966 and a master's degree in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970.

He became a community activist in 1970 while living in Montclair, New Jersey, after he won a housing discrimination suit against a landlord who denied him an apartment because of his race. The New Jersey superior court awarded him financial damages, setting a legal precedent and earning Gray national attention. Gray founded the nonprofit Union Housing Corporation in Montclair to build affordable homes for low- and moderate-income tenants.

In 1971, he married Andrea Dash, a marketing consultant. They raised three sons: William IV, Justin, and Andrew.

In 1972, he succeeded his father as the senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He also continued his community activism. In 1975, he co-founded the Philadelphia Mortgage Plan, an organization that helped people in low income communities to obtain mortgages. Essentially, housing issues in West Philadelphia is what first prompted his involvement in politics.

As a third-generation pastor of a large Philadelphia-area Baptist church and community activist, Gray was elected as a Democrat to represent Philadelphia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978. He held this position until his resignation on September 11, 1991.

Though new to elective office, Gray proved adept at Capitol Hill politics, rising meteorically in power during his 12 years in Congress primarily because he was skilled at lobbying for top posts. "If preachers, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, and teachers can engage in politics, why not a Baptist minister?" Gray asked. "Congress needs a strong moral force within its chambers. What better person than a man of moral integrity to serve his district?"

Throughout his congressional career, Gray continued to preach two Sundays per month at Bright Hope Church. "I was elected to Congress," he once told the Washington Post, "I was called to preach. One I do because people allow me to do it. The other I have to do."

At the time of his resignation, he was the third highest ranking member of the House.

Among the seats on various committees, he was the first African American to chair the powerful and partisan House Budget Committee and the first to service as the Majority Whip (1989-1991).

In 1984, he led the House in providing emergency food rations to the starving Ethiopian nation. Three years later, he made a rare break from his own party, supporting a Republican-sponsored bill to condemn Ethiopia's communist leaders for human rights violations and for exacerbating the famine. Also, Gray was a chief opponent of South Africa's apartheid system.

As chairman of the Committee on Budget, Gray introduced H.R. 1460, an anti-Apartheid bill that prohibited loans and new investment in South Africa and enforced sanctions on imports and exports with South Africa. This bill was an instrumental precursor to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 (H.R. 4868).

At the height of his political career, he abruptly resigned to take a position to assist historically black colleges and to return to the pulpit. Gray resigned from Congress in 1991 to serve as president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund which allocates federal money to augment the facilities, programs, and faculty at historically black colleges and universities. From 1991 to 2004, Gray helped raise $1.1 billion for the fund.

In 1994, President William J. (Bill) Clinton asked Gray to serve as his special adviser on Haiti, which was then embroiled in civil war. Gray's efforts to restore democracy to the island nation won him a Medal of Honor from Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

He was named to the Politics PA list of "Pennsylvania's Top Political Activists."

Outside of politics, Gray is also a businessman who has been a Director at Dell from 2000. He is also a director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Prudential Financial Inc., Rockwell International Corporation, Visteon Corporation and Pfizer.

In 2007, he retired from Bright Hope Baptist Church.

He began working for the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Washington, DC., co-founded the government lobbying and advisory firm, Gray Loeffler LLC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is vice chairman of the Pew Commission on Children and Foster Care.

Gray has been among Ebony's "100 Most Influential African Americans."

Compiled from http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=71, Wikipedia and http://www.blackfacts.com/search.aspx.