Former U.S. Congressman William H. Gray III will be the speaker at the annual observation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday on Sunday, January 15 at the 11 AM worship service at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. There will be special music by jazz saxophonist Dahi Divine and FUMCOG member and vocalist M’Balia Singley.
FUMCOG has observed Dr. King’s birthday for many years prior to the establishment of the national holiday. As a part of this celebration, the church announces the recipient of its annual Social and Racial Justice Award. Following the service, there will be a reception in honor of Rev. Gray.
Prior to his 1978 election to Congress, Rev. Gray, as both his father and grandfather before him, was pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where he developed a politically active ministry and continued his interest in housing and mortgage issues. He retired in 2007, after 35 years.
While in Congress, he rose to the position of chair of the House Budget Committee. He also was elected chairman of the Democratic caucus. In 1998, he was elected Majority Whip of the House of Representatives. Thus he was the first African American to chair a finance committee, the first to head the majority caucus, and the first to achieve the number three position in the leadership in the US House of Representatives.
His most notable legislative accomplishment was the passage of the Anti-Apartheid acts of 1985 and 1986, overriding presidential vetoes. President Bill Clinton appointed him as Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for Haitian Affairs.
In 1991, he resigned from the Congress and became President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. UNCF provides financial assistance to minority students to attend college and supports 39 historically black colleges and universities. When he went to the UNCF there were fewer than 100 programs under its purview. At the time of his retirement eight years later, there were 450 programs under its leadership. He was successful in garnering the largest gift ever received for higher education in America, a one billion dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr. Gray is currently chairman of Gray Global Strategies, Inc., a business advisory firm. He served as chairman of the Amani Group for five years.
The First United Methodist Church of Germantown is at 6001 Germantown Ave., at the intersection of High and Harvey Streets with Germantown Ave. Rev. Lorelei Toombs is Senior Pastor.