McNair’s theological liberalism was matched by his political liberalism. He was a frequent visitor at Myles Horton’s Highlander Folk School, then just down the road from Sewanee in Summerfield, Tennessee, and Gray was his frequent companion on these trips.
Highlander is best known as the place that helped provide Rosa Parks with the spark she needed to refuse to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama – an action that, of course, resulted in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which provided Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. his first opportunity for civil rights leadership.
Gray frequently accompanied McNair on his trips to Highlander, and thus was exposed to the ideas and energy of people like Horton who had been strongly influenced by the Christian social gospel movement and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
In its early decades, Horton and other Highlanders had been active in the labor movement, but as racial issues assumed a higher profile after World War II, they moved in that direction.