That’s not interesting in itself. What makes it a bit more intriguing is that Gray received the doctorate from a university he had sued during his years as a civil rights attorney. Lipscomb’s gesture is apparently part of a broader effort at racial reconciliation that has landed the Churches of Christ in a USA Today article:
Whenever legendary civil rights lawyer Fred Gray comes to Nashville, Tenn., he drops by the intersection of 24th and Batavia.
That spot was once home to the Nashville Christian Institute, a K-12 school for African-American members of the Churches of Christ once banned from Lipscomb University and other Church of Christ schools.
Long closed, the school is never far from Gray’s mind. The man who once represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. paid tribute to it during a recent ceremony at which he received an honorary doctorate from Lipscomb — an institution that he once sued over its racial policies…
In the 1940s and 1950s, there was some interaction between black and white Churches of Christ, because of Nashville preacher Marshall Keeble.
The dynamic evangelist was one of few African-Americans welcomed at white Churches of Christ. He often convinced those congregations to donate funds to the Nashville Christian Institute — known to alumni as NCI — where he was president from 1942 to 1958.
Things changed in 1967, when the NCI board of directors closed the school amid dwindling enrollment and gave all its assets to Lipscomb.
Gray and other alumni sued, saying Lipscomb was hostile to African-Americans. They lost in court. But the case — and Keeble’s death in 1968 — marked a further split between blacks and whites.