HOPE International recently presented famed Civil Rights lawyer Fred Gray with its Lifetime Service Award. The award recognizes the Montgomery native’s outstanding achievements including his groundbreaking and ongoing work to obtain, preserve and promote civil rights; his devotion to God; and his commitment to serving others. HOPE, which supports humanitarian relief and development efforts worldwide, has previously honored Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and Mother Teresa with this award. Fred is in good company and is most deserving of this high honor.
As a young lawyer in Alabama, Fred helped pioneer the path to civil rights by filing lawsuits throughout the South on behalf of clients including Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, both arrested for refusing to give up their seats on Montgomery buses. He also filed a lawsuit after the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, that forced officials to allow a subsequent march from Selma to Montgomery. The march drew nationwide attention to the issue of civil rights and greatly influenced the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Mr. Fred is the trifecta: he’s a civil rights hero, he’s a very Godly man, and he’s devoted his entire life to helping others,” HOPE CEO Robert Carrillo said.
The award was presented in Tuskegee, Alabama, where Fred is actively working on behalf of the Tuskegee History Center in an effort to expand its hours and outreach. The Center is currently only open at certain times of the year, but Fred hopes his award will garner wider support to turn it into a full-time project.
The Center was established in 1997 as the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. Its original mission was to serve as a permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, who Fred also represented in his legal career. The Center has since expanded to include educational programs, workshops, and museum exhibits. In 2002 the Center was designated the official visitor center of the city of Tuskegee and encompasses a broader view of the different cultural groups that shaped the region.
Upon receiving the Lifetime Service Award, Fred accepted it on behalf of all the people who trusted him with their cases, and in hopes that future generations will continue to learn about the history of Civil Rights and what they too can do to make a difference. He had this to say about the award:
I’m appreciative of this award because it comes at a time when many of the gains that we’ve made in the area of civil and human rights are being threatened. Therefore, as we look toward the future, let’s each of us rededicate ourselves to the task of completing the work that began with the end of slavery, continued through Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, up until today. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you ‘Here’s a problem, let’s go and solve it.’ Let us continue our work so all of God’s children, regardless of race, creed, religion, or condition of servitude will be truly free.
Fred Gray has worked hard over the years to achieve justice for all citizens in our country. He has been highly successful. I consider Fred to be a very good friend and I am proud of his many outstanding accomplishes. This man is truly a great American in every sense of the word.
HOPE partners with existing Christ-centered ministries worldwide to create a network of microfinance institutions and savings and credit associations with a goal of alleviating poverty. It provides discipleship opportunities, training, a safe place to save, and small loans for underserved communities and individuals. The organization works throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. For more information, visit hopeinternational.org. For more information about the Tuskegee History Center, visit tuskegeecenter.org.
Sources: Montgomery Advertiser, WSFA-TV 12