During black History Month, America reflects on the particularly important role that African-Americans have played in our history.
Alabama residents have a rich opportunity to think about the work that our fellow Alabamians have played in fighting legal segregation in our state and working toward the full civil rights of all in our state regardless of race.
Civil Rights in Alabama–A Legal Battle
Many of the most influential players in the Civil Rights Movement were attorneys. Dr. Clarence B. Jones who provided legal counsel to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall who served as the first African-American Justice from 1967 to 1991, Barbara Jordan was a Texas attorney who was the first woman to be elected to the Texas Legislature are some names that often come to mind when thinking of influential black attorneys.
DISCLAIMER: The following blog post is just advice, and you will be better served to call David S. Clark with your bankruptcy questions. This blog contains helpful tips and advice, but is not professional legal advice, and shouldn’t treated as such.
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Fred Gray–Alabama’s Civil Rights Attorney
Fred Gray is an Alabama-born attorney that played a massive role in ending legal segregation in our state.
When Gray opened up his Montgomery law office at the age of 23 in 1954, he was one of very few African-American Attorneys in Alabama.
By representing Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin when they were charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to give up their bus seats to white passengers in Montgomery, Alabama, Mr. Gray was thrust into the spotlight of history.
Although Mrs. Parks was eventually convicted of disorderly conduct and violation of a Montgomery ordinance, this case started the pivotal Montgomery Bus Boycott.
During this boycott, Gray served as a legal advisor for the Montgomery Improvement Association.
In 1956 he was the lead counsel in the Supreme Court case Browder v. Gale. This case upheld the lower court’s ruling that segregation on city buses is unconstitutional and illegal.
Gray also provided legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) while it fought to overcome an effective outlawing done by the then Alabama State Attorney General, John Patterson. After 8 years of legal struggle, the NAACP was once again allowed to operate in the state.
Mr. Gray served on Dr. Martin Luther King’s defense team when the reverend was accused of tax evasion in the State of Alabama in 1960. Gray and his team successfully argued King’s case before an all-white jury and achieved acquittal for Dr. King.
The list of Mr. Fred Gray’s legal contributions to racial equality in America are too numerous to mention in a brief post.
However, one of the most notable achievements that Mr. Gray accomplished in his career as an Alabama attorney was his work ending segregation in Alabama schools.
In 1963, Gray represented Vivian Malone and James Hood in their efforts to attend the University of Alabama which sparked Gov. George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door.
He was also the plaintiff’s attorney in the case Franklyn v. Auburn which led to the integration of Auburn University.
Gray did not stop his legal work here, eventually through lawsuits that he filed, all public colleges and universities in Alabama and more than 100 public schools were integrated.
Mr. Gray has not stopped the fight for the equal rights of all Americans. In the years since the Civil Rights Movement, he has used his position as a prominent African-American lawyer as a cause for good.
In 1970 Gray, along with Thomas Reed, became the first African Americans to be elected to the Alabama state legislature, in 1985 he served as president of the National Bar Association, in 2002 he became the first African-American president of the Alabama Bar Association, and in 2017 he was awarded a Lifetime Service Award from HOPE International (this is a just a snapshot of his lifetime awards and accomplishments).
As an African-American lawyer, Fred Gray has served the people of Alabama with passion and commitment. We are glad to honor him as a hero of Alabama during this Black History Month.
David S. Clark is an Auburn and Opelika, AL attorney who works to help his clients, no matter their creed or color, overcome financial difficulty through bankruptcy. Contact David S. Clark today for a free consultation!
DISCLAIMER: The above blog post is just advice, and you will be better served to call David S. Clark with your bankruptcy questions. This blog contains helpful tips and advice, but is not professional legal advice, and shouldn’t treated as such.