July 27, 2022

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today celebrated the momentous Presidential Medal of Freedom award granted to Mr. Fred Gray. 

At Mr. Gray’s invitation, Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood attended the ceremony. 

“If there’s anyone who deserves this prestigious honor, it’s Mr. Gray, who changed the course of civil rights history in America,” said Haygood. “We all rightly know the names of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and John Lewis. But often people behind the scenes alter the course of history, too. Today, America recognized one of those people.” 

In 1954, Fred Gray received his law degree and began his career in Alabama with one mission in mind: to destroy everything segregated.  

He became the legal engine of the civil rights movement, going on to represent Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. He was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first civil rights attorney, referred to by him as “the brilliant young Negro who later [be]came chief counsel for the protest movement.”