Nation's Secretaries of State to Honor Hero of Civil Rights Movement with National Award for Political Courage

Alabama Attorney and Activist Fred Gray to Receive 2015 NASS Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award 

For Immediate Release
August 12, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC - The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the nation’s oldest, non-partisan professional association for state government officials, announced today that it will honor attorney and civil rights activist Fred Gray with the 2015 Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award for political courage. 

Gray was nominated by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill for his lifetime of exemplary service, most notably for serving as attorney for Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Junior, for seeking protection for the Selma marchers in 1965, and for handling several notable school segregation cases. 

"As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I am delighted that my fellow secretaries of state have chosen to honor Fred Gray and his intrepid stance against adversity," said Merrill. "His contributions to the voting rights movement in this country are a powerful and lasting legacy."

Gray, who served as president of the National Bar Association in 1985, became the first African-American to be elected president of the Alabama State Bar Association in 2001. His autobiography, "Bus Ride to Justice," earned the Soaring Eagles Award from the Minority Caucus of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Today, he serves as the senior managing shareholder of the Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray, Gray, & Nathanson Law Firm, with offices in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama.

NASS members finalized a vote to select Gray as the national Margaret Chase Smith honoree at the organization's summer meeting on July 9-12 in Portland, Maine. 

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. Recipients of the award are recognized for similar acts of political courage, uncommon character, and selfless action in public service.  

Former recipients include civil rights heroine and former Gray client Rosa Parks, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the founders of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees and Joseph Levin, Jr.

A complete list of Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award winners can be viewed HERE.

About NASS

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. The association has key initiatives in the areas of elections and voting, state business services and digital archiving, as well as several well-established awards programs. NASS also offers two membership sections for state government professionals: Administrative Codes & Registers (ACR) and Notary Public Administrators (NPA).


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