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Nellie Gray, 86, dies; was March for Life founder and emcee


Nellie Gray, a pro-life leader who founded the March for Life in 1974, addresses the crowd during the annual rally on the National Mall in Washington Jan. 24. The annual pro-life demonstration marks the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Peter Lockley)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nellie Gray, who started the annual March for Life parade to protest the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, has died at age 86.

She was found dead in her home Aug. 13 in Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood by a March for Life staffer, Gene Ruane, who said the medical examiner will determine the cause and date of her death.

The March for Life has grown into one of the signature events of the pro-life movement. After the first march in 1974, Gray, a Texas native, established the March for Life Education & Defense Fund to sustain it.

Each year in her remarks, Gray exhorted pro-lifers to promote and adhere to a series of "life principles" that would eliminate abortion and enhance life, to which she said there should be "no exception! No compromise!"

Ruane, an administrative assistant with the March for Life, told Catholic News Service Aug. 14 that leadership of the organization would be assumed by Terrence Scanlon, who has been its vice president "since the beginning."

Funeral information was not immediately available. Gray was a member of St. Mary, Mother of God Parish in Washington.

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