Montgomery Civil Rights pioneer Fred D. Gray Sr. to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fred Gray
Historical marker across the street from Tuskegee University. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Montgomery attorney Fred Gray Sr. is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—according to Rep. Terri Sewell’s office.

The 91-year-old Gray represented the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis and others throughout his storied career. 


“I want to thank President Joseph R. Biden for his decision to award me the Presidential Medal of Freedom, indeed a high honor for which I am most appreciative,” Gray said in a statement released by Rep. Sewell.

“This award means a great deal to me, an African American civil rights lawyer who was born in the ghettos of Montgomery, Alabama,” continued Gray. “It speaks volumes to Civil Rights workers who have devoted their talents and resources toward improving the quality of life of Americans in this country; and it speaks directly to African Americans in general.”

Gray has received several honors in the past year from his hometown of Montgomery and state. 

Renaming of a Street and University of Alabama

University Of Alabama
Denny Chimes on the campus of the University of Alabama.( Pat Byington/The Bama Buzz)

Last October, the city of  Montgomery renamed Jefferson Davis Avenue to Fred D. Gray Avenue. This spring the University of Alabama Law School presented Gray with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

“Words cannot describe my excitement as we learn that President Biden will award Attorney Fred Gray Sr. the Presidential Medal of Freedom!” celebrated Sewell. “From the very beginning, I’ve known that there is no one more deserving of our nation’s highest civilian honor than Attorney Gray whose trailblazing work helped end segregation and advance a more equitable future. Attorney Gray is one of the most consequential civil rights lawyers of our time, having represented Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and the Foot Soldiers.”

Along with Gray, President announced 16 additional honorees,  including:

  • Simone Biles
  • Sister Simone Campbell
  • Julieta Garcia
  • Gabrielle Giffords
  • Father Alexander Karloutsos
  • Khizr Khan
  • Sandra Lindsey
  • Diane Nash
  • Megan Rapinoe
  • Alan Simpson 
  • Wilma Vaught
  • Denzel Washington
  • Raul Yzaquirre

Steve Jobs, Richard Trumka and John McCain are receiving the honor posthumously.

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Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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