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Internationally renowned civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray received one of the nation’s highest civilian honors – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – on Thursday afternoon, July 7, from President Joe Biden at the House White.

Gray, 91, dubbed by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. “the chief advocate of the protest movement,” earned his law degree in 1954 from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

In her seven decades of practice, Gray has represented iconic figures such as King, Rosa Parks and John Lewis in court. He has also argued four civil rights cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and represented the Freedom Runners; victims of the Tuskegee experiment; and accused them of “countless sit-ins,” according to a CWRU statement on honor.

“This award means a lot to me, an African-American civil rights lawyer born in the ghettos of Montgomery, Alabama. It speaks volumes about the civil rights defenders who have devoted their talents and resources to improving the quality of life for Americans in this country, and that speaks directly to African Americans in general,” Gray said in a statement.

CWRU co-deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf nominated Gray, who still practices in the state of Alabama, for the award.

Other recipients included Ohio-born American gymnast Simone Biles; American football star Megan Rapinoe; and actor and director Denzel Washington. Apple founder Steve Jobs and US Senator John McCain both received posthumous awards.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to civilians who have “made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interest of the United States, world peace, culture, or other significant public or private endeavors “.


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