Gray "mobilized millions to protest the injustice of Roe v. Wade and to speak out on behalf of unborn children, who have no voice of their own. While Miss Gray did not see Roe overturned in her lifetime, the movement she helped build -- especially its young members -- will not rest until the right to life is restored once again," said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, in an Aug. 14 statement.
In 2008, the National Pro-Life Religious Council presented Gray with its Pro-Life Recognition Award. Later that day, she tripped and fell on the stage at the opening rally for the March for Life and had to be taken to the hospital with a head injury.
"My heart is broken by the loss of Nellie Gray, a true pro-life hero and role model. At the same time, I celebrate that Nellie is with our Lord who she loved so dearly, said an Aug. 13 statement by Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministry and director of youth outreach for Priests for Life. "I have had the honor of working with Nellie for years and every time I march in D.C. in January, I know she will be watching over us and praying for us."
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, called her an "extraordinary pro-life leader" who was unstoppable as emcee of the march "even in the worst of weather and poor health."
Because of her leadership, the Roe decision "has been marked annually with a somber remembrance that gives voice to the defenseless unborn and the women wounded by abortion," Smith said Aug. 14. "In Nellie's name we will continue her legacy of unceasing commitment to defending the unborn."
"Many pro-lifers sometimes seem to take the annual march for granted, but the longevity of the March is actually a remarkable achievement, said an Aug. 14 blog posting on National Review Online by Michael J. New, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.
"Some 39 years ago, pro-life activists felt a need to properly commemorate the first anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. That is when the idea for the March for Life was born. Interestingly, there was no plan to repeat the first march, but when deciding what to do with the leftover funds, someone suggested hosting a march the next year," New said. "Since then, the march has been a key contribution to the pro-life cause."
Gray is survived by three nieces and one nephew, all of whom live in Texas.
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