Remembering William Gray: A Mentor To Many

Host Michel Martin pays tribute to former Congressman William Gray, who died Monday. He served as the first black majority whip in the House of Representatives and pushed Congress to stop American investment in South Africa during apartheid. He went on to serve as the long-time leader of the United Negro College Fund.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, we want to take a minute to say goodbye to an important figure in American politics and education. Former Congressman William Gray III died yesterday at the age of 71. Gray was a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania's 2nd District from 1979 to 1992. He was the first African-American to serve as majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gray was a mentor for a generation of black politicians in Philadelphia, but his service did not end when he left Congress. He went on to serve as CEO of the United Negro College Fund, where he raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support the education of African-American students and the institutions that serve them. And while he'll be honored by the country for his contributions to politics, he'll also be remembered in Philadelphia as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church until 2007. His former aide said he used to commute back to the city from Washington, to deliver the Sunday sermon.

In a statement, current Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter remembered Gray's ease with people from all walks of life, saying: He knew guys on the corner, and he knew Nelson Mandela - and everyone in between. Former Congressman William H. Gray III died yesterday, at the age of 71.

And that's our program for today.

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