‘Shining light’: politicians, pro-life leaders mourn passing of Nellie Gray, March for Life founder
WASHINGTON, DC, August 14, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The news of the passing of Nellie Gray, founder of the U.S. March for Life, has produced a huge outpouring of glowing tributes to the indomitable defender of the lives of the unborn.
Gray was no stranger to Washington politics, having been an employee of the federal government for 28 years. John Boehner, the current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, posted a Tweet this morning saying he is “Deeply saddened by the death of Nellie Gray, an indefatigable defender of human life. Our prayers are with Nellie’s family.”
Former U.S. presidential candidate and President of American Values Gary Bauer called Nellie Gray “a tireless defender of women and the unborn and a clear voice for a pro-life America” in a press release this morning.
“I send my condolences to the family of Nellie Gray, who served as a clarion call for a pro-life America that valued all its citizens, born and unborn,” said Bauer. “In sometimes daunting January weather, Nellie stood firm and brought hundreds of thousands together for the hope of restored civil rights protections for the unborn and for the protection of women and girls who are also victims of abortion. She will be greatly missed, but she set an example for us all to follow of determination and conviction for a pro-life America.”
Judie Brown, President of American Life League, expressed her deep admiration for a “shining light” who “set the standard” for pro-life leadership.
“Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life, was a shining light in my life from the first moment I heard her speak at the 1976 March for Life,” Brown recalled. “The subjects of her talk were human personhood and her hero at the time, Senator Jesse Helms, who led the fight for a personhood amendment to the Constitution from 1975 until his departure from the Senate. Nellie was a consistently strong opponent of any compromise measures proposed by pro-lifers, such as gestational legislation which she held was wrong and not genuinely pro-life.
“Nellie never wavered from principle and set a standard for every one of us in pro-life leadership. We will miss her, but we thank her for showing us the way to true, meaningful victory for every human being, born and preborn,” Brown said.
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Monica Migliorino Miller, Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, described Gray as a “pro-life giant” who “showed the rest of us the way … to ending the slaughter of the unborn.”
“May angels guide her into Paradise. Let us not forget to pray for the repose of her soul. If you are Catholic it is our duty, and undoubtedly Nellie would want us to pray,” Miller added.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that Nellie’s “purity of intention” produced the fruit of hundreds of thousands of participants joining in the March for Life every year.
“She relied upon one power to guide her: the power of the Holy Spirit. She revealed it to be more effective than all the political strategy this world could formulate,” said Dannenfelser.
“Now Nellie is prepared for the glory she did not experience on Earth and that pro-life Rep. Henry Hyde described vividly: ‘When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God - and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world - and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, “Spare him, because he loved us!’”
Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest called Nellie Gray “a visionary woman who understood the importance of a national memorial event to commemorate the significance of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Like the majority of women, she understood the power of women’s voices in the debate over the importance of a life-affirming society.”
Nellie “had a fierce heart that valued all people – born and unborn – fearlessly working to create a picture worth a thousand words – the sight of hundreds of thousands of peaceful Americans calling on their courts and their legislators to defend life in law,” said Yoest.
“When we march this January in solemn commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe, we will miss Nellie and her unflagging determination to press on toward the goal. But march we will, with deep gratitude for the example she set of sacrifice and commitment to the human rights struggle of our day.”
The president of Care Net pregnancy centres, Melinda Delahoyde, said Nellie was an inspiration to pro-life leaders through her personal example of enthusiasm and hard work for the cause of life.
“Nellie has been an inspiration to me and so many pro-life leaders,” Delahoyde said. “Her tireless advocacy for women and their preborn babies began when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand in the United States and Nellie never stopped for an end to the brutality of abortion.
“Nellie brought her experience as a World War II Women’s Army Corps corporal and attorney to bear on the entire pro-life movement. She founded and led the annual March for Life. The March – and Nellie’s personal example - motivated, energized and inspired generations of life-affirming leaders and local activists.
“The Care Net family extends heartfelt condolences Nellie’s family and dear friends. We pray for their comfort in this season of grief,” Delahoyde said.
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said that not only was Nellie Gray a “tireless warrior for the unborn,” but that her founding of the March for Life led to his own vocation to the priesthood and commitment to the pro-life cause.
“Nellie Gray and the March for Life had a most profound effect on my life,” said Father Pavone. He explained that in 1976 when he was a senior in high school, he went to the March for Life with his mother and grandmother. Although he had been quietly considering the priesthood before that, Fr. Pavone said the March cemented both his vocation and his passion for pro-life issues.
“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,” said Father Pavone, who has attended every march since his first one. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was ‘no exceptions.’ “
Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More Awareness Campaign recalled that every year Nellie invited the women of the Silent No More to stand on the rally stage holding signs that said, “I Regret My Abortion,” and arranged for a larger group of post-abortive men and women from Silent No More to be in the vanguard of the March.
“We are so grateful that Nellie Gray shared our vision of Silent No More, and recognized that the women who have had abortions speak with unquestioned authority about the ways they have been harmed by this choice,” said Morana. “Every year more women and men come to march and to share their testimony. Nellie Gray helped make that possible for us.”
Nellie Gray is also credited for realizing that African-American pro-life leaders had to become more vocal and visible in the fight for life.
“Nellie Gray knew that abortion took a heavy toll from the black community and she urged us to lend our voices to the fight against this terrible injustice,” said Dr. Alveda King, director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life. “She was a visionary.”
Fr. Pavone has offered the use of his blog for anyone wishing to share memories of Nellie and to offer spiritual bouquets and promises of prayers.
A Prayer for Nellie Gray is posted on the site.
Father of Life,
You have created each human being
To reflect your glory
From the moment of fertilization.
You have also planted in our hearts
The awareness that no human power
Can authorize the taking
Of a single human life.
You have stirred the hearts of your people
To respond to evils like the holocaust
And you have awakened their consciences
To likewise battle the evil of abortion.
We thank you for the pro-life movement
And for all its leaders.
We thank you for the life and example
Of Miss Nellie Gray
And for the work she did
In leading the Annual March for Life
And reminding us all
About the Life Principles which shape our movement.
Lord, give us new strength.
Bring us together in greater unity.
Give success to the work of our hands
As we defend every preborn child.
May we speak and pray,
May we write and march,
May we lobby and vote,
And may we see the victory of life!
We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.