NAACP Mourns The Loss of Former Congressman Bill Gray

Gray served as the first black Majority Whip in Congress

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The NAACP is deeply saddened by the loss of William Gray, the first black Majority Whip in Congress.  Gray was a vocal advocate for civil rights throughout his career, including his tenure in Congress.

“Bill Gray blazed a heroic path for national black political leadership a generation before Obama broke through as president,” stated NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.   “He went on to strengthen the UNCF at a critical moment for HCBUs. His visionary presence will be sorely missed.”

“Bill Gray was a passionate advocate for social justice both here and abroad,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Sr. Vice President for Advocacy & Policy for the NAACP.  Shelton and Gray worked together at the United Negro College Fund and collaborated on civil rights issues while Gray served in Congress.  “His work to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and the end U.S. support for apartheid South Africa is an example of the depth and breadth of his successful congressional career, while his work to help support and grow America’s historically black colleges and universities was a clear demonstration of the passion he held for expanding opportunity for all Americans to enjoy the promises of our democracy.   His legacy will continue to inspire generations of leaders.”

Gray represented Pennsylvania’s Second Congressional District.

“Congressman William H. Gray, III was a political game changer who was able to build a working coalition of the city’s old-line machine ward leaders with the growing cadre of reformist liberals, into the most dominant political operation in Philadelphia in past quarter century,” stated Jerome Mondesire, is President of the NAACP Philadelphia and State of PA Branches and who served as Congressman Gray’s Chief of Staff from 1980-1991.  “That coalition not only insured his re-election every two years for nearly six terms but also lead to the empowerment of local elected officials at all levels of local and state government; from state senator to council members to mayor. That same coalition style of politics propelled him to the highest elected post any African American politician had achieved in the last century; that of Majority Whip of the U.S. of Representatives, where he was supported by southerners almost as strongly as he was backed by other members of Congress from urban centers. Among his most important legislative achievements was the passage of his bill to increase sanctions against the apartheid regime of the old South Africa which lead to the release from prison of Nelson Mandela in 1991 and his bills which supported black colleges and universities and minority businesses that seek contracts from the U.S. Defense Department.”


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.  You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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