Kenneth J. Gray

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Kenneth J. Gray

Kenneth James Gray (November 14, 1924 – July 12, 2014) was a U.S. Representative from Illinois.

Born in West Frankfort, Illinois, Gray attended the West Frankfort and Pope County elementary schools and graduated from Frankfort Community High School. He was a licensed auctioneer and the owner of Gray Motors in West Frankfort, Illinois from 1942 to 1954.

During World War II, he served from January 1943 as a crew chief with the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. He served with the combat engineers of the Fifth Army in Italy. He returned to the Twelfth Air Force and participated in combat over southern France and central Europe until discharged as a first sergeant in December 1945.

After the war Gray was trained as a helicopter pilot and operated an air service at Benton, Illinois, 1948 to 1952. He was one of the founders of the Walking Dog Foundation for the Blind. Gray was an amateur magician and, in 1958, he appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show "To Tell The Truth."

Gray was elected as a Democrat to the 84th and to the nine succeeding Congresses and served from January 3, 1955, until his resignation December 31, 1974. He was known as the primary backer of converting Washington, D.C.'s Union Station into the National Visitor Center.[1]

Gray resided on a houseboat while serving in Congress. In the mid-1970s there were several stories indicating that he had employed Elizabeth Ray and was involved in a lifestyle of wild parties and sex involving members of Congress and Congressional staff members. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1974 to the 94th Congress, and was succeeded by Paul Simon.

In 1984 Simon ran for the United States Senate. Gray ran again for Congress and was elected to the 99th and 100th Congresses (January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1989). He was not a candidate for renomination in 1988 to the 101st Congress, and in retirement he was a resident of West Frankfort, Illinois.

In 1999 Gray suffered a stroke that left his speech slurred and his right side paralyzed. In 2003 he opened a museum in West Frankfort to showcase his political memorabilia and other mementos and souvenirs.[2]

In 2008 the post office in West Frankfort was named for him.[3]


He died on July 12, 2014, in Herrin, Illinois, at the age of 89.[4]


  1. ^ Maureen Dowd (1982-10-25). "In Washington, D.C.: Last Stop for Union Station". Time. 
  2. ^ USA Today, Former Illinois Rep's Museum Contains Political Artifacts, July 31, 2003
  3. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office, Congressional Record (House) Volume 154, Number 112, July 9, 2008
  4. ^ Former Congressman Gray dead at 89

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
C. W. Bishop
U.S. Representative of Illinois' 25th Congressional District
Succeeded by
District eliminated
Preceded by
Peter F. Mack, Jr.
U.S. Representative of Illinois' 21st Congressional District
Succeeded by
Edward R. Madigan
Preceded by
Melvin Price
U.S. Representative of Illinois' 24th Congressional District
Succeeded by
Paul Simon
Preceded by
Paul Simon
U.S. Representative of Illinois' 22nd Congressional District
Succeeded by
Glenn Poshard