Established in 2017, the Fred D. Gray scholarship is in its second year of honoring and helping Lipscomb students pursue their education in the world of law.
Kristiane Higgs, Katherine Climaco, Paulina Martinez and Grant Brown are all students in the Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice, and Society at Lipscomb University. They were presented the award in respect to the impactful work Dr. Gray has done as a lawyer and civil rights activist.
Gray began his legal career at the age of 24 as a sole practitioner fresh out of law school. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus, Gray represented her and aided in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He also represented the Freedom Riders, filed the lawsuits that desegregated Alabama schools, and was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first civil rights lawyer.
For the students, it is no small honor to receive an award named after a man who was so influential. Scholarship winners hope to pursue careers in the legal world. For them, the opportunity to follow in Gray’s legacy is a unique opportunity.
“Fred Gray has shown me hard work pays off, and because of that I strive to do my best and challenge my thinking on different social and political issues,” said Brown.
“It has proved to me that I do have the smarts and ability to get through anything I put my mind to,” said Higgs. “I see that the law impacts people every day and I would like to be part of something that changes people’s lives for better or for worse.”
Gray’s work was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement and his legacy continues to impact minority groups today. Climaco is a DACA student who therefore does not qualify for federal financial aid. This scholarship has been incredibly helpful for her to further her college career.
“Mr. Gray is someone that I admire a lot for his work as an attorney,” said Climaco. “His bravery and his determination for helping people who were unjustly mistreated is a model for students like me to follow. He is the type of leader that I strive to be like in my career as a lawyer and as a community member.”
Dr. Randy Spivey is the academic director for the Fred D. Gray Institute of Law, Justice and Society. As a professor, Spivey recognizes the unique merit of the student scholars.
“They are students who care deeply about being a part of good, sustainable, just change in the world they are entering after graduation,” said Spivey. “The Gray Scholarship is designed to help and encourage those students who are traveling down the same path Mr. Gray traveled. For Grant, Kristiane, Katherine, and Paulina that is both an honor and a challenge.”
The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society at Lipscomb University recognizes Gray’s stated lifelong commitment to “eradicate racism” through the law, beginning with his work at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Launched in spring 2007, the institute, now housed in Lipscomb’s College of Leadership & Public Service, is based on the principle that legal change is one of the surest means to effect social change. Students are encouraged to consider America’s legal system from a multidisciplinary perspective to get a fuller understanding of its mechanisms, practice and consequences.