Nation's Secretaries of State Honor Civil Rights Hero Fred Gray for Political Courage

For Immediate Release
February 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), holding its annual winter meeting this week in Washington, DC, today awarded the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award for political courage to Alabama attorney Fred Gray. Gray was recognized for his lifelong service to the cause of civil rights.

"I proudly accept this award on behalf of all the clients who, during the last 61 years, trusted me to handle their legal cases. Many resulted in breaking down the walls of segregation and changing the landscape of America - with an impact around the world," said Gray, later adding, "I am pleased to continue to fight for equal justice, until all of God's children are truly free."  

A native of Tuskegee, Gray's career spans many decades. He represented both Rosa Parksand Martin Luther King, Jr. in their landmark civil rights cases. He was also the lead attorney in other notable legal actions, seeking protection for the Selma marchers in 1965 and helping to dismantle state segregation laws.

His autobiography, "Bus Ride to Justice," earned the Soaring Eagles Award from the Minority Caucus of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill nominated Gray for the recognition based upon his commitment to social justice and equality in voting, medicine, education and numerous other areas of society.

"I've known of Mr. Gray and his powerful impact on prejudice society for more than 40 years, and I had the honor and pleasure of meeting him in person nearly one year ago," said Merrill. "He has displayed an exceptional amount of courage in times of strife and difficulty, yet he has never been discouraged or deterred from achieving his goals. His acts of political courage are beyond exceptional and will be remembered for generations." 

NASS established the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award in tribute to the former U.S. Senator from Maine, who jeopardized her career by speaking out against the red-baiting tactics of Senator Joseph P. McCarthy. Award recipients are recognized for similar acts of political courage, uncommon character and selfless action in public service.  

Past honorees include other civil rights heroes from Alabama, including Rosa Parks and the co-founders of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees and Joseph Levin, Jr. 
A complete list of award recipients can be viewed HERE.


Founded in 1904, NASS is the oldest, nonpartisan professional organization of public officials in the U.S. Membership is open to the 50 states and all U.S. territories. NASS serves as a medium for the exchange of information between states and fosters cooperation in the development of public policy. NASS also offers two membership sections for state government professionals: Administrative Codes & Registers (ACR) and Notary Public Administrators (NPA).


Media contact:  Kay Stimson, Dir. of Communications | 202.624.3528 |