WASHINGTON -- House Majority Whip William H. Gray III, a Philadelphia Democrat who is the highest-ranking black in Congress and is regarded as a possible candidate for national office, appeared last night to be on the verge of resigning his congressional seat to become president of the United Negro College Fund.
Mr. Gray's spokeswoman, Mary Hager, said she "could not confirm or deny" reports of his impending resignation. Mr. Gray, 49, did not respond to telephone calls.
The Associated Press reported that Jon Plebani, Mr. Gray's chief of staff, initially denied the reports of Mr. Gray's intention to resign, saying, "There's a rumor like that every day, and every day at sundown that rumor gets dashed."
But last night, Mr. Plebani declined to repeat his denial.
A member of Congress since 1979, Mr. Gray is the the third-ranking House Democratic leader behind Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., and Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo.
Mr. Foley told the Associated Press earlier yesterday that Mr. Gray "hasn't spoken to me" about resigning. The speaker said he did not have "any knowledge" of plans by Mr. Gray to resign.
"I assume it's not true," Mr. Foley said.