Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
William Gray III represented the 2nd District of Pennsylvania in Congress and headed the United Negro College Fund.
William Gray III was born in 1941 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has devoted his life to helping others and to serving his country. His many contributions can be seen in legislation, education, and in the business world. His education is extensive, as he has numerous degrees. Upon finishing graduate school, Gray began his career in religion. He served as a minister before realizing that he could serve people better as a politician. In 1978, he was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District. He became the highest ranking African-American ever to serve in the United States Congress. Following his political career, Gray became the CEO of the United Negro College Fund. He held this position for 12 years, and made remarkable progress for the organization, particularly in the fundraising realm. His current contributions are to the business world. He serves on the boards of a number of reputable companies including Dell, JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer, Prudential, Rockwell, and Visteon.
William Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on August 8, 1941. He was an only child. His parents were both involved in education. His father was the president of Florida A&M University and Florida Memorial College and his mother was the dean of a black college. This strong educational background likely motivated him to pursue higher education, and he was an outstanding student during his academic career. Gray graduated from Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia in 1959. He received his undergraduate degree in history from Franklin Marshall College in 1963. He then continued his education by earning a master’s degree in divinity from Drew Theological Seminary in 1966 and a master’s degree in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970. Apparently destined for a career in the religious field, Gray replaced his father as the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist in Philadelphia in 1972. He found the work enjoyable, but desired a role where he could reach out to more people, particularly the African-American Community. It was this feeling that convinced him to run for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s Second Congressional District in 1978 on the Democratic Party ticket. During his career in Congress, Gray served as the chair of the Democratic Caucus, the Democratic Party whip, and was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. These responsibilities gave him a positive reputation amongst his peers, and he was later selected as the first African-American Chairman of the Budget Committee. He was the middleman in budget negotiations between Congress and the Reagan Administration. His most notable work as a Congressman involved writing legislation that imposed economic sanctions on South Africa. He wrote bills in 1985 and 1986 promoting this. Gray’s writing skills were often utilized in the legislation that he wrote, for he has a strong ability to use language to convey powerful ideas. The bills written by him requested that the United States impose economic sanctions on South Africa to punish them for “deplorable” acts related to apartheid. In an article written for the Black Collegian in 1999, Gray advocated the use of affirmative action in higher education. His arguments were sound and his writing was persuasive. Gray’s political work was not limited to his position as a representative. He served as a special advisor to President Clinton in 1994 and consulted the President on the development of a plan to restore democracy in Haiti. His work earned him the Medal of Honor from Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Beyond his Congressional duties, Gray contributed to the well-being of our nation through education. He was appointed president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund in 1991. This organization provides educational opportunities for over 50,000 African-American youths annually. His largest impact as the head could be seen in fundraising. During his term, $1.54 billion of the $2.2 billion raised in the 60-year history of the UNCF was raised. Education has always been a large influence in Gray’s life. Beyond his career as a pastor, politician, and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, he was also an educator. He has contributed as a faculty member and professor of history and religion at a number of colleges and universities. His affiliations include Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jersey City State College, Montclair State College, St. Peter’s College, and Temple University. William Gray III currently serves on the boards of a number of large and recognizable companies. They include Dell, JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer, Visteon, Rockwell, and Prudential. His reputation as a strong leader of the United Negro College fund likely made him an attractive candidate for these roles. He also keeps himself busy by serving as the Vice Chairman of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. This organization is committed to improving conditions for children who are in foster care. Gray is married to Andrea Dash. The couple currently lives in Philadelphia and they have three sons, William IV, Justin, and Andrew.
“In the Best Interest of America, Affirmative Action in Higher Education is a Must.” The Black Collegian. August 1999.