Former Congressman Ken Gray Dies

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Published on July 14 2014 11:17 am
Written by Greg Sapp

Former U.S. Rep. Ken Gray, who represented southern Illinois in Congress for more than two decades and earned the nickname the "Prince of Pork," has died at age 89.

Officials with Parker-Reedy Funeral Home in West Frankfort said Sunday that Gray died late Saturday at a hospital in Herrin after a long illness. Gray was one of the youngest ever elected to Congress at the age of 30 in 1954 and served ten terms. He returned to Congress in 1984 to serve two terms.

Gray was a colorful figure during his time in Washington and the Democrat was known for bringing about $7 billion in federal projects to his district. They included Interstates 57, 24 and 64, creation of Rend Lake, and canalization of the Kaskaskia River which opened it to barge traffic. Other money obtained by Gray went to construction of a prison, post offices and hospitals.

In 2008 a portion of Interstate 57 in southern Illinois was named after Gray, who helped write the Interstate Highway Act of 1956.

Congressman John Shimkus said he was saddened to learn of Kenny Gray's passing on Saturday.  

"Kenny was a larger than life advocate for southern Illinois with a legacy that brought us Rend Lake and the Interstate Highway System," said Shimkus. "In a era of bland politicians, I remember Kenny's colorful personality fondly."

Governor Pat Quinn called Gray a gentleman and statesman who never tired of advocating for his beloved state and region.

"Congressman Gray was the people's voice. A grateful state fondly remembers what the Congressman did for Illinois," said Quinn. "I join my fellow citizens in keeping Congressman Gray's family and friends in our thoughts and prayers."