Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
January 2006. Special thanks to Gary Perlmutter and Lisa Giencke
for bringing Dr. Gray's collections of lichens and ferns contained
in the UNC Herbarium's collection to my attention. The UNC Herbarium
welcomes more information (particularly a photograph) on Rev.
Gray. Please contact email@example.com with any information.
Throughout the years, clergymen -- "Men
of the cloth" -- have contributed much to the sum total
of botanical knowledge. In the 16th century, Otto Brunfelds,
Jerome Bock, and William Turner, were eminent pioneers in plant
taxonomy. In the 17th century, the puritan divine, John Ray,
did such significant work that he has been considered "the
greatest European botanist of the 17th century." In the
18th century, Stephen Hales performed his brilliant, revealing
experiments in plant physiology, and in the 19th century, Gregor
Mendel, in his studies of inheritance, laid the foundations
of modern genetis. All of these servants of the church are better
known as botanists than they are as clergymen. There were many
others employed as ministers who made plant study a hobby and
became widely known through their accomlishments in the field
of botany. Among these was the Rev. Fred W. Gray, so well and
favorably known among his friends as "Parson" Gray.
Frederick William Gray (1878-1960) was
born in Anson County, N.C., the son of James Milton and Mary
Elizabeth Gray. He received the A. B. Degree from Catawba College
in 1905, the B. D. degree from Uion Theological Seminary, Richmond,
Virginia, in 1908, and the honorary degree, D.D., from Davis
and Elkins College in 1929. He was ordained a minister in the
Presbyterian Church, U.S. in 1908. He served as pastor of various
churches in West Virginia, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri.
For several years he served as Superintendent of Home Missions
in the Greenbrier Presbytery of West Virginia, and he was the
Moderator of this Presbytery for two terms, and of the Synof
of West Virginia for one term. In 1932 he became the pastor
of churches in Philippi and Belington, West Virginia, and served
these congregations until his retirement. When he retired, he
moved to Riverside, Maryland, where he resided during the remained
of his days.
The record clearly reveals his success
as a minister but he is much more widely known for his contributions
to the botany of West Virginia, and the the culture of Gladiolus.
Rev. Gray gray grew and hybridized gladioluses. He introduced
a number of new hybrids which subsequently became quite popular
members of this aristocratic group of ornamentals. He also contributed
articles to various publications devoted to the growin gof gladiolus:
Yearbook (Gladiolus-growing), The Illinois
Glad Bulletin, "Gladiolus",
Calgary, Canada, and the New Zealand Yearbook.
Although his contributions in this field are of much importance,
botanists generally, particularly the taxonomists, are much
more keenly interested in his collections of ferns, mosses,
liverworts, and lichens.
Rev. Gray was a man of boundless energy,
-- an enthusiastic and vigorous collector of plants of all kinds,
especially bryophytes, ferns and lichens. He was an unusually
keen observer and few if any field botanists were able to so
readily detect variations in form and appearance. Specimens
he collected can be found in a number of herbariums widely scattered,
but his principal collection is now in the herbarium at West
Virginia University. In this collection there are just a few
less than 24,.000 specimens, including ferns, mosses, liverworts
and lichens. For the student engaged in making an intensive
and complete study of an one of these groups, an examination
of this Gray collection would be imperative.
But Rev. Gray was more than a mere collector
of plants; he was a keen observer and a careful, meticulous
student. He had a large correspondence with botanists both in
the United States and in foreign countries. He discovered a
considerable number of new varieties and new forms, and contributed
articles to American Archaeology, the Bryologist,
the Fern Journal and Torreya.
Rev. Gray's work as a minister was his
chief concern. He considered his work with plants a hobby but
the results derived from this hobby gave him a definite place
among the productive botanists. His was a contagioius spirit
which inspired others to try "to go and do likewise."
Although he had been in failing health for several months, his
death in a Washington, D.C., hospital was unexpected. On the
9th of March, 1960, he departed, leaving us with an imperishable
and pleasant memory.