Steve Ralston was born in San Francisco, California, in 1937. He attended public schools there, and received his B.A. in 1959 and J.D. in 1962 from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall School of Law). After serving in the United States Army Reserves, he spent a year at Columbia School of Law doing graduate work and teaching. At Berkeley Steve became involved in the beginnings of the student movement. As a result, he decided on a career as a civil rights lawyer and came to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., (LDF) in September, 1964, at the height of LDF’s activities as the legal arm of the civil rights movement. He was on the legal team that defended demonstrators in Selma,
Alabama, and that brought the lawsuit that allowed the Selma to Montgomery March to take place in 1965. He has handled cases involving virtually every aspect of civil rights law, including employment and housing discrimination, voting rights, school desegregation, jury discrimination, and capital punishment.
In 1968 LDF sent Steve to San Francisco to open a West Coast Office. He returned to the New York office in 1970 and in 1971 was appointed First Assistant Counsel with responsibility for LDF’s poverty law program carried out by its subsidiary, the National Office for the Rights of the Indigent. In 1988 he was appointed Deputy Director-Counsel in charge of LDF’s litigation program. In that role he supervised the litigation work of LDF’s twenty-five lawyer staff and monitored all work done in the Supreme Court and the lower appellate courts. From 1993 until 2001, he held the position of Senior Staff Attorney and was in charge of LDF’s employment litigation program. He was elected a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers in 1996.
In 2002 he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where he acted as a co-operating attorney with LDF. In 2004 he opened a law practice, specializing in employment discrimination and other civil rights cases. After a brief stay in upstate New York from 2007-09, he returned to California and now lives in the small town of Mi Wuk Village in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He is mostly retired but continues to work on a small number of civil rights cases.
Montgomery native Fred David Gray is a nationally recognized civil rights attorney, celebrated lecturer, successful author, and former legislator. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1970, he was one of the first African Americans to serve in the Alabama Legislature since reconstruction. Currently a resident of Tuskegee, Mr. Gray is the senior partner in the law firm of Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray & Nathanson.
Mr. Gray was educated at the Nashville Christian Institute, Alabama State University, and Case Western Reserve University. After earning his law degree in 1954, the energetic and enthusiasm young attorney was thrust into the national spotlight in 1955 when he represented Rosa Parks after her arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. The incident sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Mr. Gray went on to serve as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first civil rights attorney.
With a legal career that has spanned more than half a century, Mr. Gray’s landmark civil rights cases can be found in most constitutional law textbooks, including: Browder v. Gayle, which integrated the buses in the city of Montgomery in 1956; Gomillion v. Lightfoot, which opened the door for redistricting and reapportioning legislative bodies across the nation and laid the foundation for the concept of “one man, one vote” in 1960; Williams v. Wallace, which resulted in the court’s ordering the State of Alabama to protect marchers as they walked from Selma to Montgomery to present grievances as a result of being unable to vote in 1965; Mitchell v. Johnson, one of the first civil rights actions brought to remedy systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service in 1966; and Lee v. Macon, which integrated all state institutions of higher learning in Alabama, as well as most elementary and secondary school systems. Mr. Gray also served as counsel in preserving and protecting the rights of persons involved in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He has been the moving force in the establishment of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, which serves not only as a memorial to the participants of the Study, but also educates the public on the contributions made in the field of human and civil rights by Native Americans and Americans of African and European descent.
Mr. Gray is married to Carol Porter of Cleveland, Ohio; he has four children and six grandchildren. Mr. Gray is an elder of the Tuskegee Church of Christ.
Born on December 2, 1931, in Montgomery, Alabama, Solomon Seay, Jr. is a pioneering attorney who, after receiving a law degree from Howard University, returned to Montgomery in 1957 to represent civil rights cases. At the time, he was one of only three African-American attorneys in Montgomery, along with Fred Gray and Charles D. Langford. Seay worked on cases involving the Selma to Montgomery March, the Freedom Riders, and public school desegregation in the landmark Lee v. Macon decision, among many other civil rights cases in his 50-year career. His memoir, Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer, was published in 2009.
During his stellar legal career across the entire state of Alabama, Seay focused primarily on the acquisition of civil rights and the vindication of civil wrongs, and he associated frequently as counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Seay litigated significant cases in practically every area of civil rights, including race-based and gender-based employment discrimination, access to public accommodations, and police brutality. He secured the release of hordes of Freedom Riders and voting rights activists during the early 1960s and represented many of their distinguished leaders, including Stokely Carmichael, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Attorneys Percy Sutton and Mark Lane, and Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin.