William H. Gray (Pennsylvania politician)

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William H. Gray
William Herbert Gray.jpg
House Majority Whip
In office
June 15, 1989 – September 11, 1991
Speaker Tom Foley
Preceded by Tony Coelho
Succeeded by David E. Bonior
Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1989 – June 15, 1989
Speaker Jim Wright
Tom Foley
Preceded by Dick Gephardt
Succeeded by Steny Hoyer
Chairman of the House Budget Committee
In office
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1989
Speaker Tip O'Neill
Jim Wright
Preceded by James Robert Jones
Succeeded by Leon Panetta
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1979 – September 11, 1991
Preceded by Robert N.C. Nix Sr.
Succeeded by Lucien E. Blackwell
Personal details
Born William Herbert Gray III
(1941-08-20)August 20, 1941
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Died July 1, 2013(2013-07-01) (aged 71)
London, England
Political party Democratic
Religion Baptist

William Herbert "Bill" Gray III (August 20, 1941 – July 1, 2013) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who represented Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district from 1979 to 1991. He also served as Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget from 1985 to 1989 and House Majority Whip from 1989 to 1991. He resigned from Congress in September of that year to become president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, a position he held until 2004.

As an African American, he was the fourth-highest-ranking member of the House at the time of his resignation and a minister in Philadelphia. He was co-founder of the government lobbying and advisory firm, Gray Loeffler LLC, headquartered in Washington D.C.[1]

Early life[edit]

Gray was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, where his father was president of Florida Normal and Industrial Institute (later renamed Florida Memorial University), and later in North Philadelphia where he graduated from Simon Gratz High School. He attended Franklin and Marshall College, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1963. He went on to obtain a master's in divinity from Drew Theological Seminary in 1966 and a similar degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970. Gray received a L.H.D. from Bates College in 1994.


In 1972, Gray succeeded his father as the senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He was elected as a Democrat to represent Philadelphia in the United States House of Representatives in 1978. He represented Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1978 until his resignation on September 11, 1991. He was the first African-American to chair the House Budget Committee and also the first to serve as the Majority Whip (1989–1991). As chairman of the Committee on Budget, Gray introduced H.R. 1460, an anti-Apartheid bill that prohibited loans and new investment in South Africa and enforced sanctions on imports and exports with South Africa. This bill was an instrumental precursor to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 (H.R. 4868).

Portrait of Gray in the Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Gray resigned from Congress in 1991 to serve as President of the United Negro College Fund from 1991 to 2004. The move was considered a complete surprise and prompted questions as to why he had done so. There was widespread speculation that he had been the subject of an investigation into alleged campaign finance irregularities and a grand jury investigation into his church's financial dealings. He was reported to have struck a deal with Republican Dick Thornburgh, the United States Attorney General and former Governor of Pennsylvania, that he would not run in the U.S. Senate special election in Pennsylvania to replace the late Republican senator John Heinz and in return Thornburgh would drop the investigation into him. Thornburgh went on to run in the special election in November 1991 but lost in an upset to Democrat Harris Wofford.[2][3][4][5][6]

Gray served as a special adviser to the President and Secretary of State for Haitian affairs in 1994. He was named to the PoliticsPA list of "Pennsylvania's Top Political Activists."[7]

Outside politics he was also a businessman who has been a Director at Dell from 2000. Gray was a director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Prudential Financial Inc., Rockwell International Corporation, Visteon Corporation and Pfizer. He retired from Bright Hope Baptist Church in 2007 and was succeeded by Kevin R. Johnson.

Personal life[edit]

Gray was married to the former Andrea Dash; they have three sons, William IV, Justin and Andrew. Gray was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Gray died on July 1, 2013 in London, while attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament with his son Andrew. Gray's death came suddenly and no cause of death has been given. He was 71.[8]

Awards and Honors[edit]

In 1997 he received the Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Worship[9]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert N.C. Nix Sr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Lucien E. Blackwell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tony Coelho
House Majority Whip
Succeeded by
David E. Bonior
House Democratic Whip