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Distinguished Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray to start conversation for 2018 Lane Lecture at Creighton School of Law

Fred GrayA central figure in the American Civil Rights Movement will visit the Creighton University School of Law next month for a conversation with students about the legal and religious underpinnings of the movement and the present and future state of Civil Rights in the U.S.

Fred Gray, who defended Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks on disorderly conduct charges after their 1955 refusals to move to the back of buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott protesting segregated transportation in the Alabama capital, will be the 2018 Lane Lecturer for a talk titled “Civil Rights Then and Now: A Conversation with Fred Gray.” The lecture, which will take on a discussion format with students from the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) joining Gray, will take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 15, from 4 to 5 p.m., in the Hixson-Lied Auditorium at the Harper Center on Creighton’s campus.

Oluseyi Olowolafe, president of the BLSA, said bringing Gray to Creighton involved a joint effort with Omaha’s Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice and the law school. The institutions inviting Gray to speak hope the conversation can visit not only the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement, but inspire the work still left to do on that front.

“I am reminded of the adage that is passed from generation to generation, that history has a way of repeating itself,” Olowolafe said. “Although I was not around during the Jim Crow era or in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the internal conflict that our society faces today appears to have the same earmarks of those times. To be able to learn the lessons of the cultural wars that were fought yesterday is invaluable to be able to understand and confront the cultural differences we face today.”

In addition to his defense of Colvin and Parks, Gray litigated several more high-profile Civil Rights cases, including work to help establish the NAACP in Alabama and to desegregate the state’s public schools and institutions of higher learning.

When the federal Tuskegee Syphilis Study came to light in the 1970s, Gray represented several plaintiffs who had been unwitting human subjects of the study. The study looked at the effects of untreated syphilis in African American males under the auspices of providing the men with free health care, all the while withholding the syphilis diagnosis from the men and denying them access to treatments that could have alleviated the disease.

In 1985, Gray was elected president of the National Bar Association. In 2002, he became the first African American president of the Alabama Bar Association.

“It is my hope that the conversation with Mr. Gray enlightens us in how to conduct a constructive civil discourse; but moreover, to ignite a passion within us to confront social injustice so that our society can move forward to heal,” Olowolafe said.

Gray is the author on an autobiography, Bus Ride to Justice, published in 1994 and revised and updated in 2012. Following the session, a book signing will take place, with books for purchase.

This event is free and open to the public and has been approved for one hour of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit in both Nebraska and Iowa. To register online, follow this link.

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