Attorney Fred Gray: Another Drum Major for Justice

By Warren, Rueben C.; Williams, Luther S. | Faulkner Law Review, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Attorney Fred Gray: Another Drum Major for Justice


Warren, Rueben C., Williams, Luther S., Faulkner Law Review


This article is an edited version of a symposium presentation entitled "Attorney Fred Gray: Another Drum Major for Justice" and was delivered on February 10, 2012, at Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law presented by the Black Law Student's Association, Faulkner Law Review, and the American Constitution Society. (1) It focuses, specifically on Attorney Gray's contribution to an ethical resolve, in addition to the legal settlement of the case of Pollard v. United States of America. (2) Attorney Gray has engaged in over fifty-five years of unmatched legal advocacy on behalf of civil and human rights. The cases are too numerous to list; however a few of the more well known cases are listed to contextualize the essence of his extraordinary legal career. The most noted cases include, but are not limited to the following: City of Montgomery v. Rosa Parks (3); State of Alabama v. Martin Luther King, Jr. (4); Aurelia A. Browder v. WA. Gayle (5); Gomillion v. Lightfoot (6); NAACP v. Alabama, ex rel. John Patterson, Attorney General (7); St. John Dixon v. The Alabama State Board of Education (8); Williams v. Wallace (9); Williams P. Mitchell v. Edgar Johnson (10); Lee v. Macon County Board of Education (11); Malone v. Dean of Admissions, University of Alabama (12); Franklin v. William V. Parker, Dean Graduate School, Auburn University (13); and Pollard v. United Stated of America. (14) In the view of the authors, the last case, Pollard, is among the most well known cases because it laid the foundation for major changes in the conduct of human subject research and health care delivery.

The ethical violations by the federal government resulting from the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, Alabama (Syphilis Study) are now well known. (15) Its barbaric character, conduct and consequences notwithstanding, the Syphilis Study was not broadly acknowledged until 1997, when then--President William Jefferson Clinton said, "The United States government did something that was wrong--deeply, profoundly, morally wrong." (16) Those unfamiliar with the study should note that the facts vary by storyteller, but what is known is that the Syphilis Study subject population consisted of 399 syphilitic Negro (Black) males who never received treatment, 201 non-syphilitic Negro (Black) males, with 275 of the syphilitic Negro (Black) males having been given some level of treatment during the first two years of the syphilitic process. What is also known is that, despite the requirement for written protocols in all legitimate scientific investigations, there were never protocols written for the Syphilis Study. Several scientific papers published in the middle 1930s by the study scientists reported the adverse effects in the syphilitic versus non-syphilitic men. Cardiovascular diseases among those with syphilis were fivefold higher among the men between 25 and 39 years, and twice as high among those men 40 years and older with syphilis; diseases of the central nervous system were ten times higher among those with syphilis compared to those who were non-syphilitic. The aforementioned findings, reported in the mid 1930s, clearly evidenced the devastating consequences of untreated syphilis on the human nervous and cardiovascular systems. (17) Any reasonable, logical, or ethical consideration would have surely terminated this heinous study. That it continued for several decades is explained, in part, by a declarative observation in one of the aforesaid publications, i.e., the authors suggested that a 20-year continuation period of the study was needed to understand fully the destructive progression of the syphilis disease process. Moreover, those men who were partially treated, despite all efforts by the health care community to deny care, had equally alarming results. (18)

Pollard (19) was a denial of individual autonomy, beneficence, and justice. It was clearly a bioethics violation committed by the scientists who conducted the U. …

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