Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the location of attorney Fred Gray’s law office, which is in Tuskegee.
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who grew up on the former Jefferson Davis Avenue in Montgomery and went on to help topple segregation and reshape the nation, will be presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s the nation’s highest civilian honor.
President Joe Biden will honor Gray and 16 other recipients Thursday at a White House ceremony.
“This award means a great deal to me, an African American civil rights lawyer who was born in the ghettos of Montgomery, Alabama,” Gray said in a statement released by Rep. Terri Sewell. “It speaks volumes to civil rights workers who have dedicated their talents and resources toward improving the quality of life of Americans in this country; and it speaks directly to African Americans in general.
“When I filed the various civil rights cases from 1955 to date, I was concerned about African Americans receiving the same constitutional rights as all other Americans. We have made substantial progress but the struggle for the elimination of racism and for equal justice continues. I hope this award will encourage other Americans to do what they can to complete the task so that all American citizens will be treated the same, equally and fairly, in accordance with the Constitution.”
As the attorney for Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, Gray helped desegregate public buses and integrate public schools and universities. His law firm is based in Tuskegee.
The Montgomery City Council voted last year to rename Gray’s childhood street in his honor, despite potentially violating a state law that was enacted in 2017 amid a push to