Fred Gray: I was born less than five miles from where you’re sitting, on the west side of Montgomery in what was then, and still is, considered the ghetto of the city. Born in an area called Washington Park on a street that’s only two blocks long called Prickly St. in a house that was then, 135, what we call a gunshot house. All the rooms were behind each other and if you open the front door and the back door and shoot through it, the bullet would go straight through without hitting anybody. And then when I was six, ‘cause my father died when I was two, my mother had very little formal education but she was a good Christian woman who taught all five of us that we could become anything we wanted to become provided we did a few things that she taught us to do. One was that we should stay in school and continue our education. Two, we should stay out of trouble. And three, we should place Christ first in our lives. And, basically, that’s what I live by.
I grew up on the west side of Montgomery, and even ‘til now they don’t think that anything good can come out of some of these areas. But I did not always and I didn’t really know anything about what lawyers did, I knew no lawyers when I was kind of young. And my greatest interest then, and I still have a great interest, in the ministry. As a matter of fact, our preacher in Tuskegee died a couple weeks ago and I’m gonna have to speak tomorrow morning. Haven’t finished my message yet, but (laughter) they didn’t tell me, he’d been ill for a quite a white and two or three of us had been rotating it, and I’ve been out of town for the last two weeks. So they said, “Well, it’s your time.” So I’ll have to leave between 9 and 11 o’clock to get a message together. But during a very early age, I grew up on the West side and my parents and I became a member of the Hope Street Church of Christ, which was located–it’s still located–one block from the Hope Street Baptist Church where the mass meeting took place, which is also about two or three blocks from where Mrs. Rosa Parks lived, which is also about five or six blocks from where Mr. Nixon lived. His wife was a member of our church and used to on occasion teach in Sunday school class. So my whole interest initially was, I was gonna be a preacher and my mother sent us to a church school up in Nashville, National Christian Institute, which no longer exists but did produce very outstanding students. And even though the school does not exist now, the persons who attended school there, some of us still exist. We had a meeting last weekend in Miami. We meet every other year over Labor Day weekend, those of us who are still here, we’re losing a lot of them now. And I had the opportunity of reminiscing with some of the persons that I’d been in school with over 50 years ago. So as time passes you get to see how people grow and develop, it’s very interesting.