Bush chooses city native as ambassador to EU

President Bush yesterday chose C. Boyden Gray, a Winston-Salem native, to be the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

The Senate must confirm Gray’s nomination to represent the United States in Brussels at the headquarters of the 25-member European Union. Gray, a partner in a prominent Washington law firm, was White House counsel to former President George H.W. Bush and a Supreme Court clerk to former Chief Justice Earl Warren.

As White House counsel, Gray helped Justice Clarence Thomas through his contentious confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Recently, he has been the founder and chairman of Committee for Justice, an influential conservative group formed to counter organizations on the left in the battle over Supreme Court nominees. The group was formed three years ago at the request of Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the majority leader, and the urging of Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove.

One of Gray’s jobs was to raise corporate money for the organization’s cause. It was not an easy sell because businesses had traditionally shied away from judgeship battles, believing that they involved social issues, not economic ones.

But Gray made headway with such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by making the case that federal judges increasingly will determine the fate of class-action lawsuits that have been the bane of business for years.

Gray is also on the board of Progress for America, a group that spent heavily to oppose Sen. John Kerry in last year’s election and spent more than $3million to help Senate Republicans prevent filibusters on judicial nominations.

Gray is also a co-chairman of FreedomWorks, a nonprofit group that promotes lower taxes and less regulation.

During his years in government, Gray helped negotiate the 1991 Clean Air Act amendments. As a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP he has done legal work and lobbying for utility and drug companies. He is also a recognized authority on antitrust cases.

Gray got his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His great-grandfather, James Alexander Gray, was the chief executive of Wachovia Bank. His grandfather, Bowman Gray, decided not to join the family business and instead moved up the ladder to become the chief executive of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. His father, Gordon Gray, was a lawyer, the publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal, and the national security adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (C. Boyden Gray is on the board of directors of Media General Inc., the Journal’s parent company.)