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Gordon Gray
4th United States National Security Advisor
In office
June 24, 1958 – January 13, 1961
PresidentDwight Eisenhower
Preceded byRobert Cutler
Succeeded byMcGeorge Bundy
Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization
In office
March 14, 1957 – June 24, 1958
PresidentDwight Eisenhower
Preceded byArthur Flemming
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
In office
July 14, 1955 – February 27, 1957
PresidentDwight Eisenhower
Preceded byStruve Hensel
Succeeded byMansfield Sprague
President of the University of North Carolina System
In office
October 12, 1950 – June 10, 1955
Preceded byFrank Graham
Succeeded byBill Friday
2nd United States Secretary of the Army
In office
April 28, 1949 – April 12, 1950
PresidentHarry Truman
Preceded byKenneth Royall
Succeeded byFrank Pace
Personal details
Born(1909-05-30)May 30, 1909
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedNovember 26, 1982(1982-11-26) (aged 73)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jane Boyden Craige
Nancy Maguire Beebe
Children4, including Burton and Boyden
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA)
Yale University (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1942–1945

Gordon Gray (May 30, 1909 – November 26, 1982) was an American attorney and government official 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 a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, chief financial officer of the Environmental Protection Agency, and state Secretary of Revenue.[1][2]


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. In 1937, he bought the Piedmont Publishing Company, owner of the Winston-Salem Journal, The Twin City Sentinel, and WSJS radio. He added WSJS-FM in 1947 and WSJS-TV in 1953. He sold the newspapers in 1968, but formed Triangle Broadcasting to hold onto WSJS-AM-FM-TV. He also bought the local cable franchise for Winston-Salem, a move that forced him to sell off the broadcasting outlets in 1972.

He served in the North Carolina General Assembly from 1939 to 1943 and from 1947 to 1949, 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. Gordon Gray, ordered West Point to add a portrait of Lee wearing Confederate gray at the “height of his fame.” 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 his resignation in January 1952, all the while continuing to lead the University of North Carolina.[3][4] 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." 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.[5] In American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird severely criticize Gray's handling of the hearings. Gray allowed AEC lawyers to brief the board for a full week without Oppenheimer's counsel being present. Moreover, Gray let the prosecutors use documents and testimonies to which Oppenheimer's attorneys were denied access, as well as material that had been obtained by illegal means, including unwarranted wiretaps. Sherwin and Bird called the Gray Board a "veritable kangaroo court in which the head judge accepted the prosecutor's lead".[6] Tony Goldwyn plays Gray in Christopher Nolan's adaptation Oppenheimer.

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."[7] 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 Gray 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 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.

From 1962 to 1963, Gray was head of the Federal City Council, a group of business, civic, education, and other leaders interested in economic development in Washington, D.C.[8][9]

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.


Gray died on November 26, 1982, of cancer in his home in Washington, D.C. He was buried at Salem Cemetery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.[10]


  1. ^ Lyons Gray picked for top state revenue job Winston-Salem Journal (12-21-2012). Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  2. ^ ZSR Library-Gray Family Antique Photo Album
  3. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 82. ISBN 9781615780112.
  4. ^ "Staff Member and Office Files: Psychological Strategy Board Files". Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Bird, Kai; Sherwin, Martin J. (2005). American Prometheus: The Triumph And Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1st ed.). A.A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375412028. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  7. ^ quoted in Crow, p. 188
  8. ^ Hailey, Albon B. (January 9, 1962). "Gray Elected to Federal Council Post". The Washington Post. p. A1
  9. ^ Smith, J.Y. (November 27, 1982). "Gordon Gray, Former Secretary Of U.S. Army, Dies at Age 73". The Washington Post. p. B4.
  10. ^
Political offices New office Assistant Secretary of the Army 1947–1948 Succeeded byTracy Voorhees Preceded byWilliam Draper United States Under Secretary of the Army 1949 Preceded byKenneth Royall United States Secretary of the Army 1949–1950 Succeeded byFrank Pace Preceded byStruve Hensel Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs 1955–1957 Succeeded byMansfield Sprague Preceded byArthur Flemming Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization 1957–1958 Position abolished Preceded byRobert Cutler National Security Advisor 1958–1961 Succeeded byMac Bundy Academic offices Preceded byFrank Graham President of the University of North Carolina System 1950–1955 Succeeded byBill Friday