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July 23 , 2009

And One Was a Priest

The Life and Times of Duncan M. Gray Jr.


The story of the civil rights movement is not simply the history of its major players but is also the stories of a host of lesser-known individuals whose actions were essential to the movement's successes. Duncan M. Gray Jr., an Episcopal priest who served various Mississippi parishes between 1953 and 1974, when he was elected bishop of Mississippi, is one of these individuals. And One Was a Priest is his remarkable story.

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From one perspective, Gray (b. 1926) would seem an unlikely spokesman for racial equality and reconciliation. He could have been content simply to become a member of the white, male Missisippi "club." Gray could have embraced a comfortable life and ignored the burning realities around him. But he chose instead to use his priesthood to speak in unpopular but prophetic support of justice and equality for African Americans. From his student days at the seminary at the University of the South, to his first church in Cleveland, Mississippi, and most famously to St. Peter's Parish in Oxford, where he confronted rioters in 1962, Gray steadfastly and fearlessly fought the status quo. He continued to work for racial reconciliation, inside and outside of the church, throughout his life.

This biography tells not only Gray's story, but also reveals the times and people that helped make him. The author's question is "What makes a good person?" And One Was a Priest suggests there is much to learn from Gray's choices and his struggle.

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