GOP Influencer: C. Boyden Gray (1943-2023)
By May 22, 2023 0 1576•
Clayland Boyden “C. Boyden” Gray, former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, has passed away at the age of 80 at his home in Washington, D.C. His son-in-law Nick Summers named the cause of death as a “heart ailment.”
Gray was a Washingtonian lawyer who was influential in guiding Republican judicial and Justice Department nominees as a key fundraiser and strategist. Clay bonded with then-Vice President-elect George H.W. Bush (they both shared an Ivy League background and many social connections). Both belonged to the Alibi Club, a D.C. group shrouded in secrecy with presidents, senators and diplomats as members.
Gray became Bush’s counsel and deputy chief of staff, later serving as legal counsel on Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. He was given the position of White House counsel after Bush defeated former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.
Gray had some tension with Secretary of State James A. Baker III after Gray leaked to the media that Baker had stock in bank holding loans to developing countries (a possible conflict of interest). Gray’s holdings of his own drew some inspection—he ended up resigning as chairman of a family corporation. The strain between Baker and Gray unfortunately never completely healed.
Gray helped negotiate amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 and three years later, returned to a partnership at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering where he worked in regulatory law and as a lobbyist. President George W. Bush later named Gray as ambassador to the European Union in 2006. As the Bush administration’s second term wound down, Gray served as special envoy for European affairs and special envoy for Eurasian energy.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about Gray is that he had been a clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren before switching from his family’s longtime Democratic Party roots to become a Republican. He got swept up in the excitement of the Reagan administration in the 1980s.
Gray was raised in North Carolina in a wealthy family who earned their money from banking, tobacco and communications holdings. Gray was tall and slim, at six foot-six inches, with thick eyebrows. A tennis aficionado, he played regularly with Katharine Graham of the Washington Post. He was also a member of the Four Seasons Spa down the street.
Gray had many Georgetown friends and connections and took delight in his house at the corner of 28th and Q Streets NW. He told the Washington Post in 2019 about the house: “The garden was always very, very beautiful.”
Gray was “a generous supporter of educational causes, ranging from the Bishop Walker School for Boys, to the Gray professorships at the UNC Law School and the Harvard School of Public Health, to the battle for charter schools and school choice in Washington, D.C.,” according to his law firm. A former adjunct professor at NYU Law School, he founded the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
In March 2018, Gray’s house was the site of an unannounced meeting when President Donald Trump traveled to Georgetown to dine with megadonors for his upcoming 2020 campaign.