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Public Statements

Celebrating Bill Gray

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman from Philadelphia for yielding and for giving us this opportunity to sing the praises of a great man, Chairman Bill Gray, Democratic Whip Bill Gray.

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege just a few weeks ago of receiving a call from Bill Gray. And I said, oh, it was just out of the blue, wanting to know how my family was doing, challenging my husband to tennis, as always, telling him is he ready to get beaten by me, and this or that.

He said, I just want to know how things are. And he asked me how things were going here, just a call of friendship. And it was just so remarkable to me that about 2 weeks later we had the word.

He told me he was going to Wimbledon, he was taking his sons to Wimbledon. He was going to go. He loved tennis.

And then when we got the word, it was just so strange, and I felt that God had really truly blessed me because I had that opportunity to speak with him, just out of the blue and within a matter of weeks before his passing.

I did have the privilege of serving with him. As I look around and see all these much younger Members, maybe they didn't all serve with him, but they knew of his great leadership for our country.

Anybody who did serve with him, or knew of the leadership of Bill Gray, knew that he was, in a word, a giant, a giant of Philadelphia, a giant of the Congress, a giant of our country. He was a leader and a trailblazer, a proud Representative of the people of Philadelphia. He just loved his district, a man who left his mark on the history of his city.

His time in Congress was an extension of his family business, public service, serving the community, acting on the values of his faith, giving back to his neighbors and the less fortunate.

Others have spoken about how he made this choice. This is a man who could have done anything in life. He had the talent. He had the stamina. He had the energy, the values and the rest. He was a success in anything he strove to do, but he chose the path that his family had laid out for him, ministering to the needs of people.

In the House of Representatives, Congressman Gray will forever stand as a first. He was the first African American to serve as chair of the Budget Committee, a very big deal, the first African American to serve as the majority whip in the House.

He sounded the alarm, not only about the injustices of apartheid in South Africa, but about what America and Congress could do to end it.

He broadened the reach of his public service beyond Congress, helping send more young people to college, as president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, and how excited he was about that.

He did everything with gusto, whether it was serving as a Member, as a chairman, as the whip, and then to have his values be the focus of his work at the United Negro College Fund.

To serve alongside Bill Gray, I'm sure all of my colleagues will attest, was to be inspired by his passion and his commitment, by his focus on the future, and by his belief in the common good. It was an honor and privilege to know him as a colleague, a special privilege for any of us who had that privilege to call him friend.

We only hope it is a comfort to his wife, Andrea, whom he adored. I hope it is a comfort to Andrea and to William IV, to Justin, and to Andrew, that so many people mourn their loss, are praying for them at this sad time.

Well, he went doing what he enjoyed, at Wimbledon. Watching Wimbledon all weekend, all I could think of was Bill Gray being there.

So many people loved him. So many people share the grief of the Gray family. All I can say is that, knowing him over all of these years, he lived life to the fullest.

Though he left us too soon, what he packed into his years of life and service and leadership was something so remarkable. So that's why I thank the gentleman for recognizing Bill Gray and giving us the opportunity to do so on the floor with the admiration and affection that you have brought to this meeting this evening through all of the voices of our colleagues.

I'm sure we'll be saying more and more about Bill Gray. He wasn't into titles. He liked having the titles, but he liked the friendship of being called Bill Gray.


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