By John N. Mitchell
PHILADELPHIA —The William H. Gray III Memorial Foundation and Amtrak are expected to hold a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to announce that 30th Street Station will officially be renamed William H. Gray III 30th Street Station, said Justin Gray, son of the late congressman and chairman of the foundation.
The foundation and Amtrak will sign an agreement that will include physical and digital signage changes, a memorial plaque, and a statue of Gray. The completion date for all changes is unknown at this time but will coincide with Amtrak’s redevelopment of the station.
“We are glad to have reached an agreement with Amtrak,” Justin Gray said. “Together, the foundation and Amtrak will pave the way to achieve a fitting memorial for my father’s legacy.
“He dedicated his life to public service and we are thrilled to be paying tribute in his beloved Philadelphia. This has taken time. That process has been a worthwhile endeavor and we feel we have a good partner with Amtrak and that we’ll have a fitting memorial for my father.”
The push to rename the station began in 2014 when former U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah introduced the bill that sought to rename the station. Pennsylvania’s two United State senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey both championed the bill in the Senate.
The station’s renaming was signed into law in August 2014 by President Barack Obama, and the first changes at the station occurred last summer with the installation of two physical signs. The agreement stipulates that the foundation will cover the cost of planned changes at the station, including the memorial plaque and statue to be installed during the ongoing redevelopment.
“This is more than richly deserved; he earned it the old fashioned way,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans. “It’s going to be an extremely great day, positive and rewarding. This will be something in terms of the station that will be forever. It’s a great day for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and great day for our country.”
Gray is among the most significant and influential politicians in Philadelphia’s history.
He represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1979 to 1991; during that time, he was the first African American to lead the House Budget Committee and the first to serve as minority whip.
He was, and remains, the highest-ranking member of the Pennsylvania delegation to ever serve in Congress.
Gray’s service wasn’t limited to Philadelphia.
After he left Congress, he served as president of the United Negro College Fund, and is credited with raising more than $1.58 billion for the organization.
Gray’s advocacy against apartheid played a key role in helping to dismantle the racist system in South Africa.
He also served for years as minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church.
Gray died from a pulmonary embolism on July 1, 2013, at the age of 71.
John N. Mitchell is a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.