From Post staff reports
His list of clients includes two of the most prominent civil rights leaders in history and on Saturday, Aug. 29, Fred Gray will be the featured speaker at a special dinner to be hosted at Cumberland University.
Gray, 78, was the attorney who represented the late Rosa Parks in 1955 when she was arrested by Montgomery, Ala. police for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. Her stance in the incident was responsible for the Montgomery bus boycott. Gray is also known for being the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first civil rights attorney. His appearance in Lebanon is being made possible by a small community group headed by Dr. Larry Locke. Locke said the event to be held in Cumberland’s Baird Chapel will be limited to only 200 persons. Tickets for the $30 per plate dinner may be purchased at the offices of College Hills Church of Christ; from Ronnie Kelley, president of the Wilson County Civic League; from Patrick Johnson, minister at Peyton Road Church of Christ; from David Meek, minister at Market Street Church of Christ; Donnie Hatcher, minister at Bellwood Church of Christ or at The Wilson Post. Proceeds from the event will be tax deductible and are to be contributed to the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.
Gray made history more than 50 years ago when he successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court case in 1955 that led to the desegregation of buses in Montgomery and he made history again in 2002, when he was installed as the first black president of the Alabama State Bar Association.
In 1970, he became one of the first two blacks elected to the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction. He served until 1974. The National Bar Association, a group that black lawyers founded in 1923 when the American and state bar associations didn’t allow blacks, elected Gray as its president in 1985.
Gray, born in Montgomery, is a graduate of the Nashville Christian Institute where he studied under the late Marshall Keeble, a renowned African American minister who preached in churches of Christ. He later was graduated from Alabama State University, Montgomery, and earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.
Cumberland University President Harvill Eaton noted that there is a common thread linked through Gray, Parks, King and Cumberland. He said Miles Horton, a Cumberland alumnus, who is credited by many as being the father of the civil rights movement, founded the Highlander Folk School near Monteagle in 1932.
It was at Horton’s school that Parks, King, Andrew Young and other leaders of the civil rights movement studied how to protest segregation in ways that were non-violent.