PHILADELPHIA — Former U.S. congressman William H. Gray III, who rose to influential positions in Congress and was the first African American to become majority whip, died Monday at 71.
Gray died suddenly Monday while in London with one of his sons to attend the Wimbledon tennis championships, said William Epstein, a former aide to Gray.
Born in Baton Rouge, Gray graduated from Franklin & Marshall College and Drew Theological Seminary in Jersey City before being elected as a Democrat to Congress in 1978. He was chairman of the powerful budget committee and became the first African American in the 20th century to become majority whip of the U.S. House. During his tenure, he wrote legislation implementing economic sanctions against South Africa.
In 1991, he surprised colleagues by resigning to run the United Negro College Fund, for which a biography on his company Web site says he raised more than $2.3 billion for minority institutions. In 1994, President Bill Clinton tapped him as a temporary special adviser on Haiti.