High school and college students in Dallas got a real live history lesson from a civil rights icon on Monday.
Fred Gray is not a name many may know, but he is the man who fought the legal battles of the civil rights movement. He told students of the Dallas Promise Program that while the needle has moved, racism still exists in America, and it’s up to them to move the needle of equality more.
Fred Gray’s legal hands have touched every civil rights lawsuit that has changed America. The 87-year-old has represented Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King. It’s all chronicled his book “Bus Ride to Justice.”
“I became a lawyer solely for the purpose of destroying everything segregated that I could find,” he said. “And with a lot of help from a lot of people and I think some divine intervention have been able to change things, at least to some degree.”
Still practicing law after 63 years, he’s seen a lot change.
“We made a tremendous amount of progress and been able to do away with the laws that required segregation,” Gray said. “We haven’t changed the ears and minds of individuals.”
Gray says that’s the challenge to the next generation.
“If this generation is gonna expect somebody to give to them on a silver platter, ‘Here is the solution to solving the race problem,’ then they’re wrong,” he said.
It’s a message that’s resonating with students like Kristyl Burkey.
“I think that we still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “I think programs like this are striving to make better opportunities. But I do think that it’s an everyday process, and I think it’s all of us to carry that everyday process.”
It’s a process Gray is hopeful will one day make racism like parts of the civil rights struggle history.
“Can’t give up hope,” he said. “But along with that hope, you have to add some work to it.”