HED:The path to bishop one well traveled for Gray family
By John Armistead
When he is consecrated bishop coadjutor of the Mississippi Diocese of the Episcopal Church next Saturday, the Rev. Duncan M. Gray III will follow the lead of his father, the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray Jr., and his grandfather, the late Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray Sr.
Gray Sr. was Mississippi bishop from 1943-1966, Gray Jr. from 1974-1993. Theirs and Gray III’s lives have followed other similar paths as well.
Gray Sr. (1898-1966), was born and reared in Meridian, the son of a newspaper editor. After attending Mississippi State University (then Mississippi A&M) and receiving both his undergraduate and seminary degrees at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., he returned to Mississippi to serve a dual charge at Episcopal churches in Rosedale and Cleveland.
Gray married Isabel McCrady of Hammond, La., the daughter of an Episcopal priest, and they later moved to Canton when Gray became rector of Grace Episcopal Church. Their first child, Duncan Jr., was born in Canton in 1926.
Next stop for the Gray family was St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, followed by Greenwood. While rector of the Church of the Nativity in Greenwood, Gray Sr. was elected bishop in 1943.
Gray led Mississippi’s Episcopalians as bishop for 23 years, retiring only a few weeks before his death in 1966.
Gray Jr. was in high school, and like his father a football player, when the family moved to Jackson after his father’s election as bishop. He graduated from Central High School in Jackson and entered engineering school at Tulane University, with no intentions of following his father into the ministry.
Gray Jr. graduated in 1948, married a fellow Canton native, Ruth Spivey, and took a position as an electrical engineer with Westinghouse. He lived and worked in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Shreveport, La.
Duncan III was born in Canton in 1949 while his father was still working in Shreveport and Ruth returned home to Canton long enough to give birth to the first of their four children.
A year later, Gray Jr. entered seminary at Sewanee, where his father had received his theological education. His first assignment after graduation was the same dual charge his father had been assigned out of seminary Cleveland and Rosedale.
Gray Jr. next served as rector in Oxford at St. Peter’s (1957-65), followed by St. Paul’s in Meridian. In 1974 while in Meridian, he was elected bishop, as his father had been before him, of the Diocese of Mississippi.
Gray III had just finished the 10th grade in 1965 when his family moved to Meridian, where, like his grandfather 50 years earlier, he played football for the Meridian High Wildcats.
And, like his father, Gray III had no intentions of entering the priesthood.
“My childhood dream was to be a teacher and a coach,” said Gray. “I went to Ole Miss thinking that.”
Even after his second year at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., Gray wasn’t sure he was cut out for the ministry. He took a year off and worked in the office of Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield.
“It was a vocational discernment process for me because the political realm was one of my vocational options,” said Gray. “In fact (at that point) it was number one.”
After a year, however, Gray decided to finish seminary and be ordained.
He met his wife Kathy at her home parish in Silver Spring, Md., while he was still in seminary.
He served as curate at St. James’ in Greenville, chaplain for Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans and was associate rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis before becoming rector at St. Peter’s in Oxford in 1985.
Gray and his wife Kathy have two sons, Duncan IV, 20, a student at the University of Alabama, and Peter, 17, a recent graduate of Oxford High School, who will be a freshman at Millsaps College in the fall.
Who: The Rev. Duncan M. Gray III
Position: Bishop Coadjutor-elect, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi; Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Oxford, from 1985 until last month
Family: Wife-Kathy; sons-Duncan IV, 20; Peter, 17
Education: Meridian High School, The University of Mississippi, B.A., 1971; Virginia Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1975.