Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) released a statement regarding the passing of former House Majority Whip William H. Gray III, long-time member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"Congressman Bill Gray was a source of personal inspiration to me and I am deeply saddened to have lost a dear friend and confidant. Our nation has lost a strong community leader and devoted public servant. Through his unwavering faith, strong values, and an avid social conscience, Congressman Gray made a tremendous impact on his community in north Philadelphia, in corporate America, in higher education, and on people throughout the world," said Congressman Bishop. "My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out for Congressman Gray's mother, wife, his three sons, and the Bright Hope Baptist Church family."
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Congressman William Gray graduated from Franklin & Marshall College, Drew Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary before becoming pastor of Union Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey. He succeeded his father as the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia in 1972 and was elected to Congress in 1978, representing much of the Philadelphia area until 1991. Congressman Gray was first African American to become the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Budget Committee. As Chairman of the Budget Committee, Congressman Gray was influential in the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
After his time in Congress, William Gray served as the President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund for 13 years; served on the board of directors of several major corporations including Dell, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Pfizer; and continued as a pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church until 2007 at which time he became Pastor Emeritus until his death.