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Barbara L.
Democrat CA 13

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  • Celebrating Bill Gray

    by Representative Barbara Lee

    Posted on 2013-07-08

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    LEE. Let me thank my classmate, and we certainly owe him a debt of gratitude for the respect that he is allowing us to show on the floor of the House in honor of the Honorable William H. Gray, III. I, too, want to offer my sympathy to his wife, Andrea, to Bill Gray, who we often saw with him, and he would be really at his side. Bill and Andrea and Justin and Andrew, I offer to them enormous concern for the loss of this great, great champion.

    I, too, want to lift my voice and say that Bill Gray wore many hats. On behalf of the faith community in Houston, the faith community in Texas, I want the Gray family to know that my pastors recognize and respected Bill Gray. In fact, when we would see each other, and I did not, as Chaka has said, have an opportunity to serve with him, but when we would see each other, he would ask about this pastor or that pastor, and it gave me a sense of friendship but also a sense of connectedness to Bill by saying, oh, they like you, too, or they said hello as well, because Bill was so respected.

    If I might say on this floor, Bill Gray was a child of God. Although we are going to say so many things about him, I think it is appropriate to say that he loved his church and his ministry. My pastors across Texas are praying for his family.

    I want to cite a few things that I think are so much a part of his DNA and his legacy, to be able to be a son of a mother and father who were premier educators in the life of historically black colleges, to be able to see him carry their leadership and move it to the United Negro College Fund, which is where I first came to know him, having not served with him in his work, but I knew him earlier because he and Mickey Leland were dear friends. And you can be assured that Mickey never [[Page H4194]] left Washington up here. Whenever he would come home, he would share his stories with us, who looked up and thought these stories of grandeur, of leadership, of good fights to make things better, and we would hear about Bill Gray, his friend.

    I remember Mickey leading the Congressional Black Caucus and bringing them to Houston. Bill Gray was there, and they were talking about what a challenge it was to leave Washington, but they were glad to come to then not really the fourth-largest city in the Nation, but to come down South and show what the Congressional Black Caucus represented.

    So I want to say that we are grateful for the courage but also the astuteness of his success: 56 years in the United Negro College Fund, $1.6 billion, $1.5 billion, one-half of that was raised under Bill Gray. He was serious about his work.

    Sometimes we don't understand, and this is, of course, for the Congressional Record, because my Members do, but first are to be respected. And it should be known that our colleague, Bill Gray, was the first African American to rise to the level of leadership which he did. We say the words ``majority leader,'' we say the words ``chairman of the Budget Committee,'' we say the words ``chair of the Democratic Caucus,'' but he was the first. He will forever be in the annals of history, and I think it is absolutely key that that is the case.

    I want to cite the bills, as my colleague from California said, I want to call them out: H.R. 1460, the Anti-Apartheid Action Act of 1985; and the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, H.R. 4868. Those were the guys who came together--we've mentioned Ron Dellums and the whole expanse of Members at that time who stood resolved that this Nation would not diminish its democratic ideals by engaging with South Africa. And I think courageously he took a stand that we are so proud of.

    He was, of course, respected in Washington and appointed by the President as an adviser and received a Medal of Honor from the Haitian President Aristide. He took leadership and he took it with a great sense of dignity.

    Let me conclude my comments by indicating that Bill Gray always had a smile on his face. He never stopped working. There were many times he came to my office not as a former majority leader but for an issue that he may have had. As I know he went into many Members' offices, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It was always uplifting, but Bill Gray always had a story of encouragement. He always had a smile and a deep laugh. He was a good man, and I want to leave this floor by saying good men, good people die young. But what we will always remember is that Bill Gray walked in giant steps, not because of his height but because of his service to America, his love of God, his love of people, and his love of his family. He will be forever missed, and he will be forever remembered. God bless him. God bless his family, and God bless his service.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in remembrance of a great American, Congressman William ``Bill'' Gray, who served more than a decade in this great body.

    Today, Members of both the House and the Senate and people around this great Nation mourn the passing of a legislator, a politician, a pastor, a teacher, a public servant and most of all a larger-than-life patriot.

    The United States, the State of Pennsylvania and Congress have lost a true hero in Congressman Bill Gray. My heart went out to his family, and the constituents he represented upon learning of his passing last week. Congressman Gray was a true patriot and devoted his time here on earth to serving others in his district, state, country, and around the world. His presence with us will be deeply missed, but I know that his legacy will live on for decades to come.

    Congressman Bill Gray was born on August 20, 1943 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but he spent most of his childhood in Florida, where his father served as the president of Florida Normal and Industrial College, which later became Florida A8zM University.

    Congressman Gray, like his father, was a strong supporter of education and leading advocate for strengthening America's educational systems. He earned several degrees: a bachelor's degree in 1963 from Franklin and Marshall College, a Master's of Divinity in 1966 from Drew Theological Seminary, and another Master's in Church History from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970. Additionally, he was awarded more than 65 honorary degrees from America's leading colleges and universities.

    Born into a family of ministers and educators, Congressman Gray carried on his family traditions until his death. At an early age, he accepted his calling to become a preacher, and from that day, he proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus in the church, in the community, and even in the halls of Congress. His faith was unshakable and undeniable; it was evident that he lived his life based upon what he preached.

    Congressman Gray was the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia for more than 25 years, a church pastored by his father and grandfather. Under his leadership, the congregation grew to more than 5,000 plus members, and the church served tens of thousands citizens in the community.

    In addition to his church ministry, Congressman Gray served as a faculty member and professor of history and religion at St. Peter's College, Jersey City State College, Montclair State College, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Temple University. He spent countless hours outside of the classroom preparing students for success.

    Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1978, Congressman Gray was a persistent voice for equal rights, educational access, and opportunity for all persons, in the United States and abroad. He pushed tirelessly for more economic aid for Africa and was a leading critic of the South African apartheid.

    In 1985, Congressman Gray was elected as the first African American Chair of the House Budget Committee where he introduced H.R. 1460, the ``Anti-Apartheid Action Act of 1985'', which prohibited loans and new investment in South Africa and imposed 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). Congressman Gray played a leading role in shaping United States policy toward South Africa, and awakening America to the moral imperative of ending apartheid and other injustices abroad.

    In 1989, Congressman Gray was elected to serve as the chairman of the Democratic Caucus and later that year was elected Majority Whip. He was the first African American to hold these positions and his success inspired a generation of African American elected officials.

    In 1991, Congressman Gray resigned from Congress to become the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, UNCF, America's oldest and most successful black higher education assistance organization. As president, Congressman Gray led the UNCF to new fund-raising records while cutting costs and expanding programs and services. Approximately one-half of the more than $1.6 billion raised in UNCF's history was collected during Congressman Gray's tenure.

    During the Clinton Administration, Congressman Gray served as President Clinton's special adviser on Haiti. He assisted President Clinton in developing and carrying out policy to restore democracy to Haiti. As a result of his commitment to Haiti, Congressman Gray and President Clinton received the Medal of Honor from Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

    Congressman Gray will always be, in a word, a giant--of Philadelphia, of Congress, and of our country. He was a leader and a trailblazer for the people he represented. His mission was to help people live better lives, to do the work of his Christian faith, to advance the moral evolution of humankind, to make public policy that provided education, and to bring justice and joy to all human beings one decent act at a time.

    Congressman Gray's strong, powerful, and influential voice will be missed. Philadelphia, the United States and the world have lost a great statesman in Congressman William ``Bill'' Gray. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

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