Alabama law awards honorary degree to civil rights lawyer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – A civil rights lawyer who once fought to desegregate the University of Alabama is now receiving an honorary degree from the school.

Tuskegee attorney Fred Gray will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the law school graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon, the university said in a statement.

The debut marks the 50th anniversary since three students became the first black people to graduate from law school.

Gray, 91, once helped represent Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood in their bid to desegregate the university, where they enrolled as the first black students in 1963 after the then government. George C. Wallace staged his “stand at the school gate” against integration.

Gray also represented the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and black seamstress Rosa Parks, whose arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man prompted the Montgomery bus boycott. Later, he represented black men who sued after the government left their disease untreated in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Currently, Gray is embroiled in a lawsuit to remove a Confederate monument from a plaza in central, mostly black Tuskegee.

Jon J. Epps