Nellie Gray left the life arena this week.
We mourn her death. Already, we miss her voice and her fight for all life, born and preborn. She was a woman whose personal vision and relentless drive brought together hundreds of thousands of people from all racial, ethnic, economic, and creedal backgrounds to cry out for America to stop killing children in the womb. And she did this every year, for almost 40 years.
Nellie leaves behind a heritage as a civil rights leader on par with any other in American history. She was a visionary who persevered under the conviction “that every life, born and preborn, aged and young, must be cherished and protected.”
Her first March for Life was in January 1974 on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She continued to participate in that march every year, eventually taking over the reins of the event. Through the years she saw that event grow from a few thousand attendees to more than half a million in 2012.
The event has become “Washington’s largest annual march, and leading pro-life politicians frequently address the crowd.” It bears witness to Nellie’s efforts to bridge gaps in the pro-life movement—to bring everyone in the movement together, sending one message through one event.
The message is the value of life over death.
At the most recent march in January, Nellie described abortion as “genocide.” She said the Roe v. Wade decision was “an evil imposed upon our country.” She added, “The government must understand that they are participating in a crime against humanity.”
Nellie knew something of crimes against humanity, having served during an era when they were front and center in the public consciousness. A native of Big Spring, Texas, she served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. Her education included an undergraduate business degree, a master’s degree in economics, and ultimately a law degree from Georgetown Law Center. She worked for more than 20 years for the U.S. Government in the Departments of State and Labor.
She lived for 88 years. At Alliance Defending Freedom, we, along with innumerable lives that have been touched and spared by her movement, thank God for the courage she demonstrated while on this earth.