Jon Gray '73 will be the featured speaker in the Diverse Paths of Leadership and Innovation speaker series on Friday, April 13. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 2 p.m. in Noyce 1023. The Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership is sponsoring the speaker series and associated course.
Judge Jon R. Gray (Ret.) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the youngest child of Rev. C. Jarrett Gray, Sr., a United Methodist pastor and Mai H. Gray, a career educator. His early education took place in the public schools of Kansas City, Missouri, East St. Louis, Illinois and Kansas City, Kansas. He graduated with honors from Paseo High School in Kansas City, Missouri, where he participated in student government, music and interscholastic athletics.
He graduated from Grinnell College (Iowa) in 1973 with an A.B. degree in American Studies, participated in intercollegiate athletics, and received the President’s Award as a Member of the Grinnell College Black Arts Ensemble. He graduated from UMKC School of Law in 1976, where he was Chief Justice of the UMKC Moot Court Board, and Chief Justice of the UMKC Student Court. Between his second and third year of law school, he was elected as one of two national representatives to serve in the American Bar Association House of Delegates representing the American Bar Association Law Student Division. During the last two years of law school, he received the prestigious Crusade Scholarship from the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
Upon admission to The Missouri Bar, Judge Gray was appointed Assistant Jackson County Counselor and represented various county officials and departments, including, the Director of Revenue, the Medical Examiner, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Corrections, and the Jackson County Sheriff. After engaging in the solo practice of law, he became a principal and partner in the law firm of Gray Payne & Roque, and represented individuals and small businesses in a wide variety of civil matters. He was appointed by the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, to serve on the Kansas City Human Relations Commission and as Chair of the Liquor Control Board of Review of Kansas City, Missouri. In 1981, he was appointed as Democratic Attorney for the Board of Election Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri, and served in that capacity until he resigned to accept a judicial appointment.
Judge Gray was nominated by the Sixteenth Circuit Court Nominating Commission to fill a vacancy on the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri. He was appointed Circuit Court Judge by Missouri Governor John Ashcroft on December 5, 1986 and assumed office on January 1, 1987. He was retained in office by voters at General Elections held in 1988, 1994, 2000 and 2006. During his active service as a member of the Judiciary, he presided over civil, criminal and family court matters and served a two-year rotating term as Administrative Judge of the Family Court of Jackson County, Missouri. He sat by designation as a Special Judge of the Missouri Supreme Court. Upon retirement from active service, he joined the international litigation firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP as a partner in its Kansas City office.
He is a member of the Panel of Commercial Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association and serves as a mediator and arbitrator for parties to commercial, employment, and business disputes. As a citizen of the firm, Judge Gray chairs the Professional Development Committee that is responsible for planning and executing all of the firm’s continuing legal education programs.
Judge Gray is a Golden Heritage Life Member of the NAACP, and is a member of Mt. Oread Lodge #76, F. & A.M., Kansas City Consistory #7, AASR, F. & A.M., Theta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and the Alumni Associations of Grinnell College, UMKC School of Law, and Paseo High School. Professionally, he is a member of the Missouri Bar, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association, the Jackson County Bar Association, the Eastern Jackson County Bar Association, the Missouri Judicial Conference, the Defense Research Institute, and the American Judges Association.
His extensive civic involvement includes distinguished service on the boards of directors of The Spofford Home for Children, the Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Truman Medical Centers, TMC Self Insurance Trust, The UMKC Law Foundation, Clymer Neighborhood Center, Swope Community Builders, Swope Community Enterprises, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, and the Missouri Division of Youth Services Advisory Board.
Since 1987, he has served as a faculty member for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy in regional and national trial practice programs, and formerly served as faculty for the Kessler-Edison Program in Trial Techniques at the Emory University School of Law. Judge Gray has served as Program Faculty for the Missouri Judicial College and the Missouri Judicial Education Committee orientation program for newly elected and appointed judges.
During the 2007 – 2008 bar year, Judge Gray served as Chair of the National Bar Association Judicial Council, the oldest and largest association of Black judges and judicial officers. Under his leadership, the National Bar Association Judicial Council received the outstanding Division of the Year Award, and he received a Presidential Award for outstanding service to the National Bar Association. He was featured in the Second and Third Edition of Black Judges in America and wrote the foreword of the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Black Kansas City. His reviews and commentaries have appeared in legal and non-law related publications.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. In September 2014, he received the prestigious Spurgeon Smithson Award presented by The Missouri Bar Foundation.
He is also a previous recipient of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City Difference Maker Award, the Lewis W. Clymer Award from the Jackson County Bar Association, the Carl R. Johnson Humanitarian Award from the Kansas City, Missouri Branch of the NAACP, the H. Michael Coburn Community Service Award from Legal Aid of Western Missouri, the Rosa Parks Award from the Jefferson City NAACP, and the Stanley D. Davis Award for Excellence in Professional Development from Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.
Judge Gray was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to serve a term as a member of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, 2009 – 2013 and as a member of the Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials, 2014-2016.
As an active layman in The United Methodist Church, Judge Gray’s involvement in church and ecumenical affairs is the direct result of his upbringing in United Methodist parsonages. He is a member of the historic Centennial United Methodist Church and has served as a member of the board of The Missouri United Methodist Foundation and the governing board of the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. He was elected as a delegate to The United Methodist Church General Conferences of 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 by the Missouri Annual Conference and its predecessor, the Missouri West Annual Conference. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University – Dallas, Texas, and served from 1988 – 2000, as a member of its reconstituted Board of Trustees following the imposition of sanctions against the Southern Methodist University athletic program by the NCAA. He served a term on the Southern Methodist University Executive Committee and chaired its Legal Affairs Committee. In 2004, he was elected by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to serve an eight-year term as a member of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church, during which time he sat as a member of the Church’s final arbiter of Church Law.
As a trusted adviser, he has served on numerous committees and task forces aimed at the improvement of the law and has advocated for equal treatment under law for all persons. He was a member of the original Missouri Bar Association task force that studied mandatory continuing legal education for all members of the Missouri Bar. Most recently, he served on a working group that studied and made recommendations to the Missouri Supreme Court concerning expert witness discovery in civil cases. He has been a consultant to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation that conducted a peer review of the National Consumer Law Center. He was a contributing author for the 1991 and 2002 editions of State of Black Kansas City, published by the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. His writings on Blacks in the Judiciary provided a community blueprint for educating the public about judicial selection and led to the increase of people of color within the state and local judiciary and as members of judicial nominating commissions.
He credits the inspiration of his parents, family members, teachers, student and professional colleagues