Former Congressman William Gray Dead at 71

The "Barack Obama of his day" was in London when he died of natural causes, a family spokesman says.

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William Gray (NBC10.com)

Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Philadelphia minister William Herbert Gray III has died at age 71, NBC10 News in Philadelphia reports. Gray was attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London when, according to a family spokesman, he died from natural causes.

Born in Baton Rouge, La., Gray graduated from Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia back in 1959. In 1972, he became the senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church, also in Philly.

Church leaders from Bright Hope Baptist learned of Gray's death during an emergency meeting.

"We're talking about someone who not only became majority whip but was the Barack Obama of his day." said Reverand Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist. 

"It's heartwrenching," said Brenda Willingham, who attends the church. "It hurts so bad. He's going to be truly missed by his congregation."

In 1978, Gray was elected as a Democrat to represent Philadelphia in the House of Representatives. He represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd congressional district until he resigned in 1991.

Gray was also the first African-American to chair the House Budget Committee and the first to serve as the Majority Whip.

Read more at NBC10 News.

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