Much of this violence passed unnoticed by most Mississippians, but not so with the Grays.
Gray was president of the Lauderdale County Head Start board and Ruthie Gray taught music in one of the Head Start centers that was bombed.
Daughter Anne says, “Probably one of the most vivid memories I have of that time was when Mom picked me up from school one day, which was not real common. And she was just visibly shaken and almost crying.
“She said, ‘You’ve got to see this,’ and she drove me to where this black church had been bombed and she stopped.
“And I remember so vividly, she said, ‘Now you get your white face out and walk over there!’ I said, ‘What am I supposed to say, Mama?’ And she said, ‘You just say something.’
“It was the church where she had helped with the Head Start program, and so it was real personal. It was people she knew. I remember all I could say to them was ‘I’m just so sorry.’
“It wasn’t a conversation; everybody was just in shock. I remember walking up to an old man who was crying. I was more emotionally wracked by that than by just about anything up to that point.”
Anne recalled that her school friends were either ignorant of or oblivious to the violence going on around them.
“This had happened during the night, but nobody said a word about it at school. When I tried to talk to my friends about my experience, they were in denial. They said it didn’t happen. People wouldn’t do things like that. Nobody could be that mean.
“They said it was an accident. They said things like, ‘Well, you know that church was old. It had bad wiring’ or ‘Why would anybody do anything like that? They‘re just trying to get sympathy.’ But it wasn’t in their part of town.”