William H. Gray III Passes Away at 71

Former Congressman William H. Gray III, 71, passed away Monday in London, according to his Washington, DC office. A widely influential figure in local and national Politics, Rev. Grey served as the mentor for a generation of African American politicians that includes the likes of Rep. Chaka Fattah, former Councilman George Burrell, City Councilwoman Marian Tasco and Rep. Louise Bishop. He was attending the tennis matches at Wimbledon with his son Andrew at the time of his death, which spokesman Bill Epstein described as “sudden.” The cause of death has not yet been announced.

Local politicians reacted sympathetically to Rev. Gray’s death, with Mayor Nutter telling the Inquirer he was “”stunned, saddened and hurt” at the Reverend’s passing. Councilwoman remembered Gray’s oration as “short, sweet, to the point.” Former Councilman George Burrell called Rev. Gray one of the “transformative leaders in Philadelphia.” In Harrisburg, the house paused for a moment of silence at the news of his death.

Before his passing, Rev. Gray served as the chairman emeritus of Gray Global Advisors, a Washington consultancy he founded after stepping down as president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. His representation of the of Second Congressional District of Pennsylvania earlier in his career allowed him to rise to Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, the first African American to do so in the 20th century. His work in Congress shaped the country’s foreign policy efforts and generated resources for international aid. He left in 1991 to lead the college fund.

As a proponent of social justice, his work goes unrivaled, and he will be hugely missed—both in Philadelphia and beyond. [Philly.com]