William Gray

William Gray (Washington County)

State Senate: 1870-1875

Born: March 2, 1841 in St. Louis, MO
Died: February 14, 1919 in Chicago, IL

Baptist minister. Appointed Brigadier General by Gov. Adelbert Ames. Gray was a strong proponent of civil rights legislation.

Unfortunately, Gray’s life seems to have been marked by scandal and corruption. In late 1876, he was indicted for embezzling funds from a Baptist church in Fayette County, Kentucky. Later newspaper articles imply other questionable incidents.

Listed on the 1870 census in Greenville with wife Hester and on the 1880 census in Lexington, KY with wife S.J. and mother Sarah Gray. By the late 1880s, Gray was a minister in St. Paul, Minnesota. At some point, he served as keeper of the gallery in the Minnesota state senate. Gray eventually moved to Chicago, where he spent the last years of his life.

His second wife, “S.J.” was Selena J. Walker. She was born August 17, 1852 in Columbia, TN, and died March 20, 1919 in Chicago. She appears with her family, apparently free, on the 1860 census in Nashville. She attended Fisk University and is listed in 1877 and 1878 Nashville city directories as a public school principal.

Birth and death dates from the Cook County Deaths Index.

“William Gray of Greenville, was a young Baptist preacher of some education and much natural cleverness. A leader in the demands for civil rights for Negroes, he was lacking in tact, and was probably at times guilty of double-dealing both in politics and in religious affairs.”
(Vernon Lane Wharton, The Negro in Mississippi, 1865-1890, 1965)

Signature of William Gray
Signature of William Gray from an 1871 petition supporting Blanche K. Bruce as a trustee of Alcorn University
Clarion-Ledger, March 24, 1870
Weekly Mississippi Pilot, April 30, 1870
Vicksburg Daily Times, July 16, 1870
Petition to support Blanche K. Bruce as a trustee of Alcorn University
Petition supporting B. K. Bruce, May 13, 1871
New National Era, February 13, 1873
Vicksburg Herald, October 18, 1874
Clarion-Ledger, March 4, 1875
Chronicle-Star, March 13, 1875
Weekly Democrat-Times, May 8, 1875
Weekly Mississippi Pilot, May 8, 1875
Clarion-Ledger, May 12, 1875
Vicksburg Herald, August 5, 1875
Vicksburg Herald, August 15, 1875
Vicksburg Herald, August 17, 1875
Vicksburg Herald, August 17, 1875
Clarion-Ledger, August 18, 1875
Weekly Mississippi Pilot, Aug 21, 1875
Canton Mail, August 28, 1875
Daily Mississippi Pilot, Sep 21, 1875
Daily Mississippi Pilot, Oct 31, 1875
Daily Evening Express, May 8, 1876
Weekly Democrat-Times, Dec 16, 1876
Yazoo Herald, December 22, 1876
Clarion-Ledger, January 31, 1877
Louisville Courier-Journal, March 3, 1877
Weekly Democrat-Times, May 19, 1877
Weekly Democrat-Times, Aug 18, 1877
Port Gibson Reveille, August 18, 1877
Cincinnati Daily Star, October 17, 1879
Weekly Democrat-Times, July 5, 1884
Western Appeal, May 7, 1887
St. Paul Daily Globe, Sep 26, 1888
Western Appeal, October 6, 1888
New Ulm Weekly Review, Mar 6, 1889
Washington Bee, March 8, 1890
The Appeal, March 22, 1890
The Broad Ax, January 12, 1901
The Broad Ax, February 20, 1904
The Statesman, August 2, 1907
The Broad Ax, May 2, 1908
Vardaman's Weekly, June 20, 1908
Vardaman’s Weekly, June 20, 1908
Montana Plaindealer, September 11, 1908
Rock Island Argus, October 6, 1911