The Philadelphia Inquirer: 30th Street Station renamed to honor late Congressman William Gray

Originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

The renaming of 30th Street Station to honor former Congressman William H. Gray III is underway, with a new sign installed last week and another expected to come next week.

A 2014 act of Congress required the Amtrak station to be renamed after the congressman, who died six years ago. The first sign naming the facility William H Gray III 30th Street Station was installed June 27, Amtrak officials said, on 30th Street. A second will soon be added.

Eventually, according to an agreement between Amtrak, which owns the station, and the William H. Gray III Memorial Foundation, the station will also include a statue of Gray and a memorial plaque. Where those will be placed should be decided by the end of July, according to U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.), who considered Gray a mentor.

“Those who visit and work at Gray 30th Street Station will have the opportunity to remember, or learn for the first time, the gift of Gray’s service to our city, our nation, and the world,” Evans said in a statement.

The addition of the new sign was first reported by the Philadelphia Tribune.

Amtrak plans to add the new name to other materials, it reported.

“Ticket media, Amtrak’s website, mobile site, and other platforms will also be updated over the course of the next few weeks,” the transportation agency said in a statement.

Gray represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District from 1979 to 1991. He was the first African American to chair the House Budget Committee and serve as majority whip, the third-ranking position in the House. His time in Congress was marked by his strong opposition against apartheid in South Africa, and he advocated for sanctions against that nation. He was also a booster for public transportation, and helped raise millions of dollars to renovate 30th Street Station in the 1980s.

“There is direct connection to the station and his support of Amtrak and his support of public transportation and rail,” said Justin Gray, the congressman’s son and chair of the foundation.

In Philadelphia, he served as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church for 35 years, and was president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund. He was 71 when he died.

“He knew guys on the corner and he knew Nelson Mandela and everyone in between,” then-Mayor Michael Nutter said in Gray’s obituary. “In the chess match of politics, he knew how to get things done.”

In the five years that passed since Congress approved a name change for the station, Amtrak and the Gray Foundation negotiated the form the naming would take. Redevelopment work at the station also contributed to the time it took to make the renaming official.

“For us, this was about really having a full memorial,” Justin Gray said, “a plaque, a statue, and a true rebranding of the station, and a true memorial for my father.”

The station was used by about 4.4 million passengers in 2018.