Lecture by Rosa Parks Attorney Headlines CSU Black History Month

Civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., will deliver the keynote address for Columbus State Universitys 2006 observance of Black History Month.

Subsequent events will be a Feb. 12 Gospel Extravaganza in Uptown Columbus RiverCenter for the Performing Arts and the universitys 23rd annual Black Applause Banquet on Feb. 24, recognizing outstanding local students and a local service group or individual for professional and community service achievement.

Gray will speak on the legacy of Rosa Parks, who passed away in 2005. The event is free and open to the public and will be held at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 in the Fine Arts Hall auditorium.

Grays legal career began in the midst of Americas modern day civil rights movement. Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Gray earned his law degree from Case Western Reserve University (Ohio). He said he had privately vowed in college to become a lawyer, return to Alabama, and destroy everything segregated I could find.

Less than a year out of law school at age 24, he represented Parks after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in 1955 initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott cases that helped establish my legal practice, said Gray in his 1995 autobiography Bus Ride To Freedom.

Grays book also provided the following context for those events: One could say that Mrs. Parks refusal to surrender her seat on a Montgomery bus created an ever-widening ripple of change throughout the world. Her quiet exemplification of courage, dignity and determination mobilized persons of various philosophies A pebble cast in the segregated waters of Montgomery, Ala. created a human rights tidal wave tidal wave that changed America and eventually washed up on the shores of such far away places as the Bahamas, China, South Africa and the Soviet Union.

In addition to representing Parks, Gray was Kings first civil rights attorney and successfully represented plaintiffs in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study case. Moreover, Gray litigated cases that changed the social fabric of America regarding desegregation, integration, racial discrimination in voting, housing and education.

Grays court victories through 1966 returned African-Americans to the city limits of Tuskegee; remedied by class action systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service and integrated all state institutions of higher learning in Alabama. In 1993 he successfully argued in the Eleventh Circuit that vestiges of racial discrimination in Alabama higher education persisted. He also is a former legislator elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1970 as one of the first African Americans to serve in Alabamas legislature since Reconstruction.

Grays numerous career honors include the American Bar Associations 2004 Thurgood Marshall Award, joining previous recipients that include Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights (1996) and U. S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1999).

Currently, Gray is a senior partner in the law firm of Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray & Nathanson, with offices in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Ala. He also lectures to audiences nationwide and spearheads the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. When fully developed, the center will educate the public on contributions made in human and civil rights by Native Americans and Americans of African and European descent.

CSUs Gospel Extravaganza, at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 in the RiverCenters Legacy Hall, will feature the Dougherty High Performing Arts Chorale from Albany, Ga. Other performers will include The Gospel Messengers and the CSU Gospel Choir. The event is free, however seating is limited. Tickets for reserved seating are available from the RiverCenter Box Office. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Call the box office at (706) 256-3600. For more information on the program, call (706) 568-2023.

CSUs Black Applause Banquet, set for Friday, Feb. 24 in CSUs Cunningham Center, will begin with a 6:30 p.m. reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The event will feature recognitions of top local high school and CSU students and the presentation of the Dr. John Townsend Achievement Award to a local individual or service group, in honor of Townsend, the first African American to enroll at CSU. The keynote speaker will be Richard Holmes, Georgia Power Companys senior vice president of metro Atlanta region and diversity/corporate relations. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling (706) 568-2273 or 568-2023.

For more information on Grays appearance at CSU, call (706) 568-2030.