Gordon Gray (politician)

For the cardinal, see Gordon Gray (cardinal).
Gordon Gray
National Security Advisor
In office
June 24, 1958  January 13, 1961
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Robert Cutler
Succeeded by Mac Bundy
Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization
In office
March 14, 1957  June 24, 1958
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Arthur Flemming
Succeeded by Position abolished
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
In office
July 14, 1955  February 27, 1957
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Struve Hensel
Succeeded by Mansfield Sprague
President of the University of North Carolina System
In office
October 12, 1950  June 10, 1955
Preceded by Frank Graham
Succeeded by Bill Friday
United States Secretary of the Army
In office
April 28, 1949  April 12, 1950
President Harry Truman
Preceded by Kenneth Royall
Succeeded by Frank Pace
Personal details
Born (1909-05-30)May 30, 1909
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died November 26, 1982(1982-11-26) (aged 73)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jane Boyden Craige
Nancy Maguire Beebe
Children Gordon (with Craige)
Burton (with Craige)
Boyden (with Craige)
Bernard (with Craige)
Alma mater Woodberry Forest School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Yale University

Gordon Gray (May 30, 1909 – November 26, 1982) was an official in the government of the United States during the administrations of Harry Truman (1945–53) and Dwight Eisenhower (1953–61) associated with defense and national security.



Gordon Gray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Bowman Gray, Sr. and Nathalie Lyons Gray. He was married in 1938 to the former Jane Boyden Craige, and they had four sons: Gordon Gray, Jr., Burton C. Gray, C. Boyden Gray and Bernard Gray. After Jane's death, Gray married the former Nancy Maguire Beebe. His father Bowman, his uncle James A. Gray, Jr. and later his brother, Bowman Gray, Jr., were all heads of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

His son, C. Boyden Gray, a graduate of Harvard and the University of North Carolina Law School, served as White House counsel for President George Herbert Walker Bush. His nephew, Lyons Gray, also a graduate of both North Carolina and Yale, is chief financial officer for the Environmental Protection Agency


Gordon Gray attended Woodberry Forest School for high school. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1930, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Beta chapter) & the secretive, Order of Gimghoul. He earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1933 and practiced law for two years in New York City before returning to Winston-Salem. UNC presented Gray with an honorary law degree in 1949.

Public career

Gray began his public life as a lawyer and was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1939, 1941, and 1947, representing Forsyth County. He entered the U.S. Army in 1942 as a private and rose to captain, serving in Europe with General Omar Bradley's forces. Gray's service to the federal government began with his appointment as President Harry S. Truman's assistant secretary of the army in 1947; two years later, he was appointed Secretary of the Army. He served in this post from 1949 until 1950. The following year he became director of the newly formed Psychological Strategy Board which planned for and coordinated government psychological operations; he remained in the post until May 1952, all the while continuing to lead the University of North Carolina.[1]

He was the second president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina, succeeding Frank Porter Graham in 1950.

In 1954 Gray chaired a committee appointed by AEC chairman Lewis Strauss which recommended revoking Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance. The Gray Board, as it was known, issued its split decision on May 27, 1954, with Gray and Thomas A. Morgan recommending the revocation, despite their finding that Oppenheimer was a "loyal citizen." Dr. Ward V. Evans, a conservative Republican and the third member of the board, dissented, saying that most of the allegations against Oppenheimer had been heard before, in 1947, when he had originally received his clearance.[2] In the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer the chairmanship of Gray during the hearings was described as severely lacking. Gray had allowed that the prosecutors briefed the committee for a full week without representatives from the defendants being present. Moreover, Gray let the prosecutors use documents and testimonies that the defendants attorneys were denied access to, as well as material that was obtained by illegal means such as unwarranted wiretaps. The authors called the Gray Board a "veritable kangaroo court in which the head jugde accepted the prosecutors lead".

Gray shocked proponents of public education in North Carolina when he said, in a November 1954 Founder's Day speech at Guilford College, that "if I had to make a choice between a complete system of publicly supported higher education or a complete system of private higher education, I would choose the latter as a greater safeguard of the things for which we live."[3] Less than a year later, Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson named Gray assistant secretary for international security affairs and Gray's brief career in academia was ended.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to head the Office of Defense Mobilization in 1957, where he served until the office's consolidation in 1958. Eisenhower then appointed Gray his National Security Advisor from 1958 until 1961. On January 18, 1961, President Eisenhower awarded Gray the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. In 1976, he was awarded the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award.

In controversial leaked documents, Gray is alleged to have been part of the secret Majestic 12 organization.

Gray was also publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal, chairman of the board of Piedmont Publishing Company and chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


  1. "Staff Member and Office Files: Psychological Strategy Board Files". Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
  2. Crow, Jeffrey J. (April 2008). "'The Paradox and the Dilemma': Gordon Gray and the J. Robert Oppenheimer Security Clearance Hearing". North Carolina Historical Review. 85 (2): 163–190. JSTOR 23523398.
  3. quoted in Crow, p. 188
Political offices
New office Assistant Secretary of the Army
Succeeded by
Tracy Voorhees
Preceded by
William Draper
United States Under Secretary of the Army
Preceded by
Kenneth Royall
United States Secretary of the Army
Succeeded by
Frank Pace
Preceded by
Struve Hensel
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Succeeded by
Mansfield Sprague
Preceded by
Arthur Flemming
Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization
Position abolished
Preceded by
Robert Cutler
National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Mac Bundy
Academic offices
Preceded by
Frank Graham
President of the University of North Carolina System
Succeeded by
Bill Friday
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