PHILADELPHIA (AP)— Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III, who rose to influential positions in Congress while remaining pastor of his north Philadelphia church for 3 1/2 decades, has died, a family spokesman said. He was 71.
Gray passed away suddenly Monday while in London with one of his sons to attend the Wimbledon tennis championships, said William Epstein, a former aide to Gray.
Born in Baton Rouge, La., Gray graduated from Franklin & Marshall College and Drew Theological Seminary in Jersey City, N.J., before being elected as a Democrat to Congress in 1978. He served as chairman of the powerful budget committee and became the first African-American in the 20th century to become majority whip of the U.S. House. During his tenure, he authored legislation implementing economic sanctions against South Africa.
In 1991, he surprised colleagues by resigning to run the United Negro College Fund, for which a biography on his company website says he raised more than $2.3 billion for minority institutions. In 1994, President Bill Clinton tapped him as a temporary special adviser on Haiti.
Succeeding his father as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in 1972, he continued in that position until 2007. Epstein said he commuted back to the city on weekends to deliver Sunday sermons.
Gray also founded Gray Global Advisors, a business and consulting firm of which he was chairman emeritus at the time of his death.
He is survived by his mother, his wife and three sons.
Mayor Michael Nutter hailed him as “a transformative leader among leaders” and ordered flags at all city buildings to fly at half-staff beginning Tuesday.
“He knew guys on the corner, and he knew Nelson Mandela and everyone in between,” Nutter said in a statement. “He created a political organization that for decades has continued to be one of the most powerful, productive and progressive forces in the social and political life of our city’s history.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) called Gray “a tireless advocate for the people of Philadelphia and a trailblazer for a new generation of African American elected officials.”
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) credited Gray with helping to develop housing for low- and middle-income residents through the nonprofit Union Housing Corp. and with providing federal resources for renovations that have made the city’s Amtrak station “one of the best, most efficiently run train facilities in the nation.”
“And finally, Bill Gray was my friend — he was the very embodiment of how to turn the power and platform of the House of Representatives for true public service,” Fattah said.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/7-10/14)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Nite | to the tune of @cnn 😞
1 of 25
2. Got so much work to do but I just wanna stay in bed and binge watch #Gameofthrones and start the new season of #OnceUponATime. I know I can't be the only one. Right? Ha 💤🦁🍂 #saturday
2 of 25
3. Mommy's weekend turn up ❤️👶🏾💕🍼 Wouldn't trade it for nothing. #TeamNoSleep lol #HesMyBiggestBlessing ✨
3 of 25
4. One of them oh shit mont we made it feelings … this shit still be unreal 💯💪🏾 @remyboymonty1738
4 of 25
5. Tickets Available October 14 @ticketmaster.
5 of 25
6. People magazine Home edition has raided my house! Get a sneak peek into the bedroom life of the Leakes and see other parts of my home now at PEOPLE.COM
6 of 25
7. They want to kick you when you down, but kick it when you up
7 of 25
8. Got my advance copy of #Mafia3 at @gamestop. Get yours via link in the bio #Mafia3 #Ad
8 of 25
9. This is some of the cast and our diverse team of writers in the writer's room creating funny sh*t for @nbcmarlon what a fun room! Lots of jokes, great stories and having a great time doing what we love... making people laugh and feel something. Look out for our show next year @nbcmarlon we bringing sitcoms back to NBC
9 of 25
10. #HappySunday☀️Thank you @4everbrandy101 💛💡💛
10 of 25
11. Happy to be back in Central Falls, RI breaking ground for the One Stop Health Center and hosting a local community event with #Vaseline.
11 of 25
12. Thank you all in advance 💋💋💋 #Repost @urbansvintage・・・#TarajiPHenson's memoir #AroundTheWayGirl will be available everywhere TODAY October 11th! Will you be purchasing a copy? #UrbansVintage
12 of 25
13. Moms got my back
13 of 25
14. @galore dinner party glo ✨ thanks to @styledbygiigii
14 of 25
15. 🌹#ThisIsWhatTheTruthFeelsLikeTOUR #forevereve
15 of 25
16. Yes, all those videos I've been posting have led to this: the introduction of skincare to @TYRABeauty! This is the rundown on the new line:Years of research and beauty tips I live by led me to produce the most effective and delightful skincare out there. I'm all about taking really good care of my skin, so I can look like I'm aging in #TyraYears and go filter free on Instagram when I feel like it! Now, it's your turn. ✨My Mama always told me not to wash my face with just my hands. "Tyra, girl, you're just moving the dirt around!" And I've listened. First up is The Clean Machine.... ...a 3-in-1 foaming face wash that cleanses, removes makeup and purified your skin. It has patented technology - a attached Turbo Cleansing Tool - to give you that deep clean that makes your skin feel super fresh. Wanna know more? Yeah, baby. Click that link in my bio.
16 of 25
17. On set of #beingmaryjane like... ❤️😬💃🏾
17 of 25
18. #carouselofhope@yvetteshelton100@makeupbylatrice @thestacetheface@marialuciahohan24
18 of 25
19. I refuse to let a little cold stop me from my daily routines to greatness. #onlythestrongsurvive #warriors
19 of 25
20. Big things begin with big THINKING... #BusinessEthics #SetLife 🎥
20 of 25
21. Goodnight - here's a song
21 of 25
22. Words can't explain the feeling that I have right now.....God is good. look momma I made it. #Harts #Blessed #WhatNow #comedicrockstarshit #4DaysAway
22 of 25
23. I tried to get a better video with out the nasty bib but she started getting mad at me..lol! Big cuz @the_queen_caitlin trying to show her what to do. #MamasToots #HeirBear👑💜
23 of 25
24. Gorgeous Serena joined Beyoncé in Formation last night on stage in New Jersey!!!
24 of 25
25. 😜 @lifeofdesiigner & @rockohill
25 of 25