WILLIAM H. GRAY III
The passing of former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III, who rose to influential positions in Congress while remaining pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia for over three decades, is a tremendous loss of “transformative leader” of our city and nation.
Gray passed away suddenly while in London with one of his sons to attend Wimbledon tennis championship, said a family spokesman. He was 71.
His accomplishment in religion, politics, and education was more than most men achieve in a single field.
Gray was elected as a Democrat in Congress in 1978 and served as budget committee chairman and majority whip.
He represented the Second District of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1991. In his years in Congress, never lost sight of serving America’s middle class and poor.
Gray was credited with helping to develop housing for low-and middle-income residents through the nonprofit Union Housing Corp. and with providing federal resources for renovations that made Philadelphia’s Amtrak station ‘one of the best, most efficiently run train stations in the nation,” said Congressman Chaka Fattah.
While in Congress, Gray helped to influence U.S. foreign policy and government resources towards international development aid and development, particularly towards Africa.
He authored legislation implementing economic sanctions against the then apartheid government of South Africa.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., was right to hail Gray “a tireless advocate for the people of Philadelphia and a trailblazer for a new generation of African-American elected officials.”
Gray was one of those rare leaders who also was instrumental in helping to develop other leaders. Many of the city’s African-American political and business leaders worked for or were influenced by Gray.
In 1991, Gray resigned from Congress to become the president and CEO of The United Negro College Fund. At UNCF, Gray successfully raised over $2.3 billion dollars for the college fund.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton named him special advisor on Haiti.
Gray succeeded his father as pastor of Bright Hope in 1972. While in Congress, he commuted back to the city on weekends to deliver Sunday sermons. He continued as pastor of Bright Hope until 2007.
Mayor Michael Nutter correctly called Gray “a transformative leader among leaders.”
The mayor ordered flags at all city building to fly at half-staff a honoring befitting such an influential leader of our city and nation.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)
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