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"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

A Conversation with Legendary Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray and LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill

Event Date(s): 
Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
African American Civil War Museum
1925 Vermont Avenue, NW (Vermont & U Street)
Washington, DC

Fred Gray and Sherrilyn IfillLDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill held an informative and inspiring conversation with legendary civil rights attorney Fred Gray at the recently opened African American Civil War Museum on U Street in Washington, DC.  They discussed Mr. Gray’s life as a lawyer in many of the most notable civil rights matters in our history and his recently rereleased memoir: Bus Ride To Justice: The Life and Works of Fred Gray. Their conversation occurred on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.    

Fred GrayAs Ms. Ifill noted, during his career, Mr. Gray has helped to shape the law in a wide range of areas.  By the age of thirty, he was already one of the major architects of the Civil Rights Movement.  Shortly after graduating from law school, he began talking with Rosa Parks, a friend with whom he shared lunch, during breaks from her work as a seamstress, and his work as the young founder of a new law practice. Mr. Gray represented Mrs. Parks and was a key strategist for the Montgomery Bus Boycott which helped ignite the movement that would spread across the country. Mr. Gray also defended Dr. Martin Luther King in a variety of cases, and represented civil rights activists in the landmark First Amendment case of New York Times v. Sullivan. The audience was riveted as Mr. Gray told the little-known story about Claudette Colvin, a 15 year-old Montgomery high school student, who, months before Rosa Parks took a stand,  refused to give up her seat on the public buses and was arrested and declared a “delinquent” by the courts.   

Fred Gray

During the conversation, Mr. Gray recalled how as a young lawyer, in search of guidance, he called Thurgood Marshall at the Legal Defense Fund and began what would become a long relationship of collaboration. Mr. Gray also noted the large number of his cases tried in cooperation with the LDF. In attendance to commemorate Mr. Gray’s work were former LDF President and Director-Counsel Elaine Jones, former LDF lawyer and now President of the Children Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, past and present LDF attorneys and interns as well as many friends of LDF and Fred Gray.

As he reflected on past victories, Mr. Gray noted the Fisher v. Texas and Shelby County Alabama v. Holder, casescurrently pending in the Supreme Court and cautioned that the fight for justice is not over. He reminded the audience that anyone can play an important role in that fight, even at a very young age. His story certainly proves his point. 

Fred Gray


All photos courtesy Co0s Hamburger, 2013