William H. Gray III, a Baptist minister and Democrat from Philadelphia who during six terms in Congress became the first black party whip — the No. 3 leadership post — and first black chairman of the House Budget Committee, has died. He was 71.
He died unexpectedly Monday while in London with one of his sons to attend the Wimbledon tennis tournament, according to family spokesman William Epstein.
A third-generation pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia since 1972, he was elected in 1978 to represent Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District, which covers areas in and around Philadelphia. During his 12 years in the House, he pressed for economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime and, as budget chairman during President Reagan's second term, helped Democrats and Republicans reach consensus on spending.
Gray's rise to Democratic whip brought talk of his becoming the first black House speaker and perhaps seeking the presidency. Then, at the peak of his power, he resigned in 1991 to become president of the United Negro College Fund.
"My concept of power is different from other people's," he said in a 1991 interview with the New York Times. "I come from a background of ministry and education in which power is the ability to impact on people's lives."
Gray was chairman emeritus of Gray Global Advisors, a Washington-based consulting firm, and served on the boards of Dell, Pfizer and Prudential Financial and Prudential Insurance Co. of America. He served on the board of JPMorgan Chase & Co. from 2002 to 2012.
William Herbert Gray III was born on Aug. 20, 1941, in Baton Rouge, La., and attended high school in Philadelphia.
He received a bachelor's degree in 1963 from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., a master's in divinity in 1966 from Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, N.J., and a master's in theology in 1970 from Princeton Theological Seminary, also in New Jersey.
Gray is survived by his wife, the former Andrea Dash; their three sons, William IV, Justin and Andrew; and his mother.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun