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Fred D. Gray: “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: A Study That Should Never Have Occurred”

Release date: February 29, 2024

This talk from the MOCRA archives was given on April 30, 2002, in conjunction with the exhibition Tony Hooker: The Greater Good – An Artist’s Contemporary View of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. It was a great honor to have noted attorney Fred D. Gray speak about his role representing the men involved in the study in their pursuit of justice and compensation, as well as the wider context of his decades of civil rights advocacy.

Deemed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as “the chief counsel for the protest movement,” Gray continues his law practice and his advocacy work even today. In 2023, Gray successfully represented residents of Tuskegee in a lawsuit aimed at removing a Confederate monument from a public square.

Gray has also received significant honors in recent years. In 2021, the Montgomery (Alabama) City Council renamed the city’s Jeff Davis Avenue in Gray’s honor. In 2022 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden. 

Among the projects dearest to Fred D. Gray is the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. We encourage you to learn about the center’s work and consider lending your support.


Related Exhibition

Tony Hooker: The Greater Good – An Artist's Contemporary View of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study


This program was made possible with support from Saint Louis University’s Great Issues Committee and the Residence Hall Association.

Producer: David Brinker
Video editing: Matt Peterson

Featured Presenter

A black and white photographic portrait of Civil Rights attorney Fred D. Gray

Fred D. Gray is a civil rights attorney whose career spans nearly 50 years. He has represented some of the most pivotal figures in civil rights history, including Mrs. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil rights cases he won helped bring about the integration of buses in the City of Montgomery, the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the integration of state institutions of higher learning in the State of Alabama. He also represented the men of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in Pollard v. United States of America, helping to win monetary damages for the victims and their families.

Gray served in the Alabama State Legislature from 1970 to 1974 and has served on the boards of multiple educational institutions and professional organizations. He has received numerous awards, honors, and honorary degrees, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022. He is the author of two books, "Bus Ride to Justice," and "The Tuskegee Syphilis Study." Gray has been instrumental in the establishment of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center in Tuskegee, Alabama. He practices law in Alabama in Montgomery and Tuskegee.

More About Fred D. Gray