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Gray, George Henry (1903–1967)

by Elaine Brown

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

George Henry Gray (1903?-1967), politician, accountant, farmer and soldier, claimed to have been born on 2 October 1903 at Hay, New South Wales, son of George Henry Gray, bank manager, and his wife Priscilla Maud Kerr, a native-born schoolteacher. Raised by his maternal grandmother on her family's farm at Lewis Ponds, near Orange, young George was educated at Burwood Public School, Sydney, before taking a job in a grocery store at Thornleigh. In the early to mid-1920s he held a post as a customs officer at Shanghai, China, and was a corporal in the Shanghai Volunteer Corps.

Returning to Australia about 1926, Gray moved to Queensland, worked on a farm at Cooyar and became an organizer for the Douglas Social Credit Party. On 4 August 1939 he led thirty-seven members of the League for Social Justice in a raid on Parliament House, Brisbane, demanding that the government reduce unemployment and improve conditions for primary producers. Arrested for unlawful assembly, he was acquitted at the subsequent trial, as were his accomplices. He later maintained that he had been spying on the league for Federal intelligence authorities.

Mobilized in the Citizen Military Forces on 29 May 1940, Gray served in units of the Australian Army Ordnance Corps in Queensland, Papua and New Guinea. He was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1942 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 12 December 1944 as a captain. At All Saints Anglican Church, Woollahra, Sydney, on 20 April that year he had married a 19-year-old clerk Elsa Noeline Braham ('Bray') Stratton. Back in Brisbane, he was employed as an accountant with the Queensland Cement & Lime Co. and owned a mixed business at Bowen Hills which was run by his wife.

In 1946 the family moved to Toowoomba. There, Gray managed Co-operative Sales and Service Co., joined the Australian Labor Party in 1945 and stood unsuccessfully in 1949 for the city council. Forming the Roseneath Pastoral Co. with two friends in 1950, he began dairying at Mulgowie, near Laidley. Misfortune attended the venture: no crops could be planted during six months of frequent rain and in May 1951 Gray's house burnt down. Secretary of the Tully River District Canegrowers' Executive, in 1955 he became secretary of the Rockhampton Agricultural Society.

Such was Gray's involvement in community activities that, when elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Capricornia in 1961, he belonged to twenty-two associations and societies. Returned in 1963 and 1966, he worked tirelessly for his electorate, emphasizing the needs of Central Queensland and promoting the Capricornia New State Movement. In parliament he spoke on 'an extraordinarily wide range of subjects', but his chief interests were northern development and defence. His design for a combined tank and tank-carrier received serious consideration by army officers.

Gray was a slim, active man, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. A teetotaller and an elder of the John Knox Presbyterian Church, Rockhampton, he was devoted to his family and compassionate towards those in need. Although quiet by nature, he enjoyed a yarn and had a gentle sense of humour. He died of pulmonary oedema on 2 August 1967 at Rockhampton and was buried in North Rockhampton cemetery; his wife, three sons and three daughters survived him. Bray Gray was a Rockhampton City Council alderman (1973-91) and served eight years as State secretary of the Australian Local Government Women's Association.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 15 Aug 1967, p 4
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 5, 8, 15, 23, 24 Aug, 1 Sept 1939
  • Canberra Times, 26 Aug 1966
  • Age (Melbourne), 11 Oct 1966
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 3 Aug 1967
  • Sunday Truth (Brisbane), 6 Aug 1967
  • private information.

Citation details

Elaine Brown, 'Gray, George Henry (1903–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/gray-george-henry-10345/text18317, accessed 26 September 2017.

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