Pfizer Mourns Loss of Prominent Leader and Respected Board Member
Reprint from Pfizer World July 3, 2013
Rev. William H. Gray III
The Rev. William H. Gray III, civil rights leader and Pfizer Director, died on July 1 at age 71.
The Rev. William H. Gray III, who served in Congress, promoted democracy in South Africa and Haiti, transformed the United Negro College Fund, and mentored a generation of political and business leaders, died suddenly in London on July 1. Gray, 71, was a longtime member of Pfizer’s board of directors.
“We are saddened by the death of Bill Gray,” said Ian Read, Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO. “At Pfizer, he was an outstanding director who helped us navigate through a period of rapid change. His strong leadership on governance issues will be missed, and outside of Pfizer, Bill will be remembered for his accomplishments as a champion of equality, education, and opportunity. However he touched our lives, Bill also always brought a sense of optimism and humor to the work at hand.”
Born in Louisiana, Gray attended Franklin & Marshall College and later received divinity degrees from both Drew and Princeton. His father was a minister and college president; his mother, a teacher and university administrator. In 1966, Gray was installed as senior minister of the Union Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He went on to succeed his father at the pulpit of Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church in 1972, a post he held until 2004.
In 1978, Gray was elected to Congress and became the first African-American to serve as Chair of the House Budget Committee, and then as Majority Whip. He was instrumental in U.S. efforts to bring about peaceful change in South Africa’s apartheid policies and was an active proponent of U.S. investment in emerging markets.
Gray ardently believed in the power of education, and in 1991, he resigned from Congress to lead The College Fund/UNCF, the philanthropic organization commonly known as the United Negro College Fund. During his tenure, the Fund raised more than $2.3 billion, improved its efficiency, and provided financial assistance to more than 700,000 students. He later served as a special advisor to President Clinton on restoring democracy to Haiti. After retiring from The College Fund/UNCF in 2004, he founded or co-founded three business advisory consultancies The Amani Group, Gray Global Advisors, and Gray/Loeffler LLC.
Gray served on a number of corporate and not-for-profit boards, including those of Dell Inc., Prudential Financial, and JP Morgan. He was named by Ebony magazine as among the “100 Most Important Blacks in the World in the 20th Century” and received more than 65 honorary degrees during his lifetime.
He became a member of Pfizer’s board of directors in 2000, one of several Directors joining from Warner-Lambert’s board. Among his responsibilities, Gray chaired the Corporate Governance Committee and served on the Science and Technology Committee.
He is survived by his mother, Hazel Yates Gray; his wife, Andrea Dash; and three sons, William H. Gray IV, Justin, and Andrew.