William “Bill” Gray was in grade school when he and a few of the neighborhood kids wanted to grab some McDonald’s. He asked his father for money for McDonald’s and was less than enthusiastic to learn that his father would require him to work for it.
“Nothing in this life comes free son,” his father would tell him.
After a few hours of cutting grass and long after the other kids had already gone to McDonald’s, Gray’s father drove him to the establishment in the family pickup truck.
“We stopped at a gas station. There was a guy there down on his luck. I saw my father go in his pocket, and I don’t know how much cash it was, but it was enough to make the man cry. I’m looking like, how? I just had to work all day for $5. I was heated,” said Gray.
Gray didn’t say a word, but his father could tell he was upset when he got back in the car.
His father explained that the man looked like he had enough bad days. He needed to have a good one.
That was the type of man his father was.
Moses “Mo” Williams Gray was born April 12, 1937, in Goochland, Virginia. He moved to the Hoosier state to play football at Indiana University Bloomington, where he graduated in 1961. Gray was then drafted into the NFL by the New York Giants. He also played with the New York Jets for a brief period.
Although his talents on the field are notable, it’s his character that impacted people the most.
“This is going to sound weird, but it was not until he passed away that I understood his impact. To me, he was just dad, but when you start hearing stories from friends and fans, he became larger than life,” said Gray.
Moses Gray was an employee of General Motors in Indiana for 30 years, where he rose through the ranks to become a general superintendent.
Gray married Ann Marie Powell in Nov. 1962. The couple adopted two children, William and his sister, Tamara Ann.
According to the Indiana Historical Society, he served on the boards and committees of over two dozen local organizations over the span of his lifetime, including:
The Children’s Bureau of Indianapolis, Association for the Rights of Children in Indiana, Black Adoption Committee of Indianapolis, District Commissioner of Crossroads of America Council, Marten Manor Group Home’s Foster Aunt and Uncle Program, Marion County Department of Public Welfare’s Foster Parents Program, United Way Agency Relations Advisory Committee, IU’s “I” Men’s Association and IU’s Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.
“I don’t know how he did it. He took that secret with him. He didn’t stress or complain about it. He did what needed to be done. I think he just enjoyed helping the community and being there for his family,” said Gray.
In his efforts to encourage and guide young Black men, Moses Gray served on the national board for 100 Black Men of America, Inc. He was also a founding member of the Indianapolis Chapter.
Indiana Historical Society records show that in the 1990’s he helped the organization set up mentoring programs within local schools like IPS #45.
The organization focused on academics, recreation for after school programs, health education, a summer program, and an assembly student motivational program.
James Duke, current Midwest District Representative for 100 Black Men, said Moses Gray was a supportive mentor to him.
“He had a smile that would light up a room. When I was up-and-coming in 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, he would always pull me to the side and say, ‘Hey Brother Duke, you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work,’” said Duke.
The organization created the Moses Gray Scholarship in 2022 to honor the leader.
“It’s for any of our prior program participants who are going to any college or technical and trade school,” said Duke, “We also have an internal 100 Black Men of Indianapolis Award called the ‘Moses Gray Man of the Year.’ It’s been around for years, and it honors our outstanding members for their volunteerism, mentoring and community engagement.”
Moses Gray died Feb. 6, 2023.
The 86-year-old was preceded in death by his parents, Moses Sr. and Ida B. Gray, his siblings, Walter Gray, Hazel Gray Britt, Florence Jean Gray Tyler, Ralph Gray, and his daughter, Tamara Gray Brown.
He’s survived by his son, William Gray, brother, Ralph Gray, sister, Ida Gray, nieces, nephews, godchildren, eight grandchildren and three great- grandchildren.
A celebration of life service will be held Saturday, April 1, at Light of the World Christian Church starting at 11 a.m. It will be a dual service with his wife, Anne Marie Powell, who passed while planning his celebration of life.
Contact senior staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON