Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor today to honor the leadership, work, and public service of former Congressman Bill Gray. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you very much. 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 of, just a few weeks ago, of receiving a call from Bill Gray. And I said – oh it was just out of the blue – just wanted to know how my family was doing, challenging my husband to tennis as always: ‘Oh is he ready to get beaten by me,’ and this or that. And just, he said: ‘I just want to know how things are?’ And yeah – and he asked me how things were going here and the rest. Just call a friendship. And it was just so remarkable to me that about two 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; loved tennis. And then when we got the word, it was just 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, where as I look around and see 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, and giant of our country. He was a leader and a trailblazer. A proud Representative of Philadelphia, he just loved his district, a man who left his mark on the history of his city.
“His name in Congress was an extension – his time in Congress was an extension of his family business, public service, acts – serving the community, acting on the values of the state, giving back to his neighbors and the less fortunate. Others have spoken about how he made this choice. This is the man who could have done anything in life. He had the talent, he had the stamina, he had the energy, and the values and the rest. He could have been, he would have, he was a success at anything he strove to do. But he chose the path that his family laid out for him: ministering to the needs of the people.
“In the House of Representatives, Congressman Gray will forever stand as a Member – as a first: he’s the first African American to serve as the Chair of the Budget Committee, a very big deal. [He’s] the first African American to serve as a 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 am 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.
“And well, he went doing what he enjoyed, at Wimbledon all of – 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 could say is that knowing him over all of these years, he lived life to the fullest, and though he left us too soon, the – what he packed into his years of life and service and leadership was something so remarkable, so remarkable.
“So, that’s why I thank the gentleman for recognizing Bill Gray, giving us the opportunity to do so on the floor and to do so with all the admiration and affection that you have brought to this meeting this evening and 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. And with that Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time. Thank you.”