Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray, Jr. is the pastor of the historic New Sardis Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. During the eighteen years that Dr. Gray has been at New Sardis, the membership has grown by 2000 members. He served as the Health Coordinator for the Memphis Affiliate of the Congress of National Black Churches for ten years. In this capacity, he led the Memphis affiliate in health ministries and environmental justices. In his prophetic ministry, he is the President of the Memphis satellite of Operation Push and serves on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission under three governors.
He teaches in the Congress of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and Bluff City Christian College, in Memphis. In 2005, He served on the faculty of the Congress of Christian Education for the Baptist Association in Germany, and recently spent 10 days in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, teaching, touring and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has served on the board of licensure for social workers in the State of Tennessee since 2010. He has served on the Board of Director for Tri-state bank since 2004. He served as an adjunct professor for Memphis Theological Seminary in Spring of 2011.
Dr. Gray received the Bachelor of Science degree from Lane College, in 1968; the Masters Degree in Education from the University of Memphis, the Masters of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Memphis Theological Seminary.
Dr. Gray was nurtured in the Christian faith by loving, devoted Christian parents, the Reverend Leo M. Gray, Sr. and Mrs. Corine Olivia Gray. He was baptized at the Middle Baptist Church. It was at the Middle Baptist Church that the pastor was introduced to prophetic ministry. The Reverend E.W. Williamson was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement and ran for the Memphis City School Board, when it was not popular, nor safe, to do so. Dr. Benjamin Lawson Hooks has served as the pastor’s role model in the ministry for the past 40 years and remained Dr. Gray’s pastor until his death in 2010.
In 1990, Dr. Gray organized a group of activists and filed a federal lawsuit challenging the runoff provision of city elections in Memphis. The federal court ruled, without a trial, that the runoff was unconstitutional and Dr. W. W. Herenton was elected the first African American Mayor of the city of Memphis.
On December 5, 1999, the Shelby County Commission renamed a major section of Holmes Road in Memphis “The Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, Jr. Road” to honor Dr. Gray for his long tenure of service in Shelby County. In February of 2000, Dr. Gray made available to the general public his newly published book: Deacons for Defense and Justice. This spellbinding book is about African-American Men in Bogalusa, Louisiana who armed themselves to defend their community against the KKK during the civil-rights movement.
Dr. Gray’s mission in life is to empower people to become all that God wants them to be, and all they can become to liberate the world from sin, poverty, and enslavement. Pastor Gray is married to the former Mary Tunstall; they have four daughters and five grandchildren.