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Lipscomb to recognize former MLK attorney Fred D. Gray by naming Institute for Law, Justice & Society in his honor

Kim Chaudoin | 615.966.6494  | 

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Lipscomb University officials have announced that they will rename its Institute for Law, Justice & Society in honor of history-making civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray.

The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society at Lipscomb University recognizes Gray’s stated lifelong commitment to “eradicate racism” through the law, beginning with his work at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Gray began his legal career as a sole practitioner and less than a year out of law school at age 24, he represented Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat on a city bus, which began the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gray was also Martin Luther King Jr.’s first civil rights lawyer, represented the Freedom Riders and filed the lawsuits that desegregated Alabama schools.

A celebration of the renaming of the institute will take place Nov. 12, which will be highlighted by a keynote address by Gray. A celebration of the renaming of the institute will take place Nov. 12 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which will be highlighted by a keynote address by Gray. A reception begins at 6 p.m. with the dinner and program beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $200 per person or $2,000 for a table of ten. R.S.V.P by Nov. 4 to lipscomb.edu/ljs-gray.

“With a quiet demeanor and strong determination, Fred Gray has been at the forefront of changing the social fabric of America through desegregation and constitutional law cases,” said Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry. “In a career that spans over 55 years, Fred Gray fought racial discrimination in voting, housing and education. Few individuals in the course of our country’s history have had as great an impact on American society than Fred Gray.

“Our Institute for Law, Justice & Society was created to inspire and equip our students to make a difference in their communities,” he continued. “It is very fitting to honor the work of Dr. Gray by naming this very important program for him as a way to continue the work to which he has devoted his life.  Our students will aspire to become the next generation of Fred Grays that we so desperately need.”

gray_gala_300_1Launched in spring 2007, the institute, now housed in Lipscomb’s College of Leadership & Public Service, is based on the principle that legal change is one of the surest means to effect social change. Students are encouraged to consider America’s legal system from a multidisciplinary perspective to get a fuller understanding of its mechanisms, practice and consequences.

“The Gray Institute offers an undergraduate program that focuses on socio-legal issues to encourage critical thinking, good writing and a passion for justice,” said Randy Spivey, Gray Institute academic director. “Dr. Gray is an inspiration to our students, and he is a living example of the impact one person can have. He has been instrumental in shaping the work we do here in the institute, and we are honored to be able to celebrate his body of work in this significant and lasting way.”

Also on Nov. 12, to honor Gray’s career, the institute will partner with Compassionate Counsel and the Tennessee Justice Center to host a free legal advice clinic from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schrader Lane Church of Christ, located at 1234 Schrader Lane in Nashville. The clinic will provide general legal advice for a variety of legal needs including civil, criminal and probate issues. The Tennessee Justice Center will also provide assistance with applying for, or obtaining services through, TennCare, including the CHOICES program, which provides coverage for nursing home care or nursing home equivalent care in the home, or CoverKids as well as applying for five “core benefit” programs: Medicare Savings Programs, Medicare Part D Extra Help, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and TennCare.

In June 2012, Lipscomb University awarded Gray an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during a gala event as part of the 32nd annual Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference. Gray was a featured speaker at the Lipscomb’s 2015 Law Camp for high school students interested in a career in the legal field. During a conversation with campers, Gray shared his motivation for practicing law.

“It was because of the problems I saw as a teenager, just a little older than you are today, that I saw the need for justice,” Gray told the attendees. “I decided then that a lawyer should be able to make a difference. I went to law school, passed the bar, became a lawyer and destroyed everything segregated that I could find. I think we have made tremendous progress as a country since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. We were able to remove all segregation laws at the time. Now, it doesn’t mean that all of the problems are solved, but we have to keep working with them. The most disappointing thing to me is that while we have changed the laws, the mindset of some people remains the same. It will take young people like you to continue to make positive change in our society.”

Fred D. Gray

A native of Montgomery, Ala., Gray is in the general practice of law specializing in civil rights litigation and lives in Tuskegee. He is the senior partner in the law firm of Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray, Gray & Nathanson P.C., with offices in Montgomery and Tuskegee. 

He is admitted to practice in the United State Supreme Court as well as in the Supreme Courts of Ohio and Alabama among other local and district courts. Among his notable cases are City of Montgomery v. Rosa Parks, State of Alabama v. Martin Luther King Jr., Aurelia A. Browder, et al v. W.A. Gayle, et al (integrated the buses in the City of Montgomery), Williams v. Wallace (court ordered State of Alabama  to protect  marchers from Selma to Montgomery after being beaten on Bloody Sunday), and Lee v. Macon County Board of Education (integrated all state institutions of higher learning under the Alabama State Board of Education, and 104 of the then 121 elementary and secondary schools systems in the state). He was counsel in preserving and protecting the rights of persons involved in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1972, the case of Pollard, et al v. United States of America.

One of the first African-Americans to serve in the Alabama Legislature since reconstruction, Gray was also the first African-American elected as president of the Alabama State Bar Association in 2002. He also served as the 43rd president of the National Bar Association and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, American College of Trial Lawyers and International Society of Barristers. Gray is the recipient of numerous awards including the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association, Harvard University Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion; the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award and the Federal Bar Association’s Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award.

gray_gala_300_2Gray is the principal founder of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, which serves as a memorial to the participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, a group Gray also represented in court,  and educates the public on the contributions made in the fields of human and civil rights by Native Americans, Americans of African descent and Americans of European descent.

Lipscomb University’s Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society: The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society is home to a rigorous and challenging undergraduate academic program that is one of the few in the nation taught from a justice and civil change point of view. The program prepares students for law school, public policy or governmental work, and work with nonprofits, and is one of the only programs in the country that incorporates travel to Washington, D.C., and London in the course curriculum. Located in Nashville, Tennessee’s state capitol, students interact with federal and state legislators, lobbyists, attorneys and politicians. Many of the class sessions are taught by these accomplished individuals. Program graduates have a nearly 100 percent placement rate in law school or law-related professions.

In addition to its degree program, the institute hosts special events related to law and legal institutions, promotes dialogue related to the legal community and offers programs of interest to the community at large. As part of the institute’s involvement in the legal community, the Gray Institute partners with the Tennessee Bar Association to host a summer law camp for high school students interested in a career in the legal field. For more information about the Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society, visit ljs.lipscomb.edu.

— Photos by Kristi Jones