Ex-U.S. attorney Gray, 83, dies

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009

WWII veteran known for tenacity in prosecuting

He spent his career prosecuting tax evasion, fraud and other swindles before enjoying a quieter retirement of volunteer work and life with his wife in their South Hill home.

But Carroll D. Gray’s legacy as a tenacious steward of justice lives on through the attorneys he mentored.

“He was a great example of what it meant to represent the government, and I’m indebted to him for that,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley.

Gray died Wednesday morning at home as he prepared to go to an exercise class at the Spokane Club, his family said. He was 83.

He worked in the Spokane County prosecutor’s office in the 1950s before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in 1961. He stayed with the federal office for 33 years and served as interim U.S. attorney for several months before James Connelly was appointed in 1993. Connelly will be a pallbearer at Gray’s funeral, Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Augustine Church.

“He wasn’t out to make a name for himself or do anything other than what he considered the right thing to do,” Connelly said.

Gray, a World War II Navy veteran, was the longest-serving assistant U.S. attorney ever in Eastern Washington.

“Things seem to change as we get bigger or laws change and get more complex,” said private criminal defense lawyer Mark Vovos. “But Carroll was a United States attorney who was reasonable. He understood the power and that the job of the United States was to do justice and not just get a conviction.”

When Gray left the U.S. attorney’s office in 1994, an article in The Spokesman-Review noted his “tenacious, low-key style and monotone delivery.” Gray told the newspaper he enjoyed tax evasion cases “because they have fraud and lying involved,” and he recalled prosecuting draft dodgers during the Vietnam War.

Gray said he made no apologies for those prosecutions, “but I kind of regret that whole period. I now strongly feel that the war was badly handled. I was bothered then and now that so many guys got killed.”

Friends and colleagues remember Gray’s attention to the individual.

“He was the epitome of a good lawyer because he had this innate sense of justice,” Senior Judge Justin Quackenbush said. “He looked at the person who made the error and made a judgment based upon that individual.”

Quackenbush worked with Gray in the prosecutor’s office, argued cases against him as a defense lawyer and presided over many of his cases during his more than three decades on the bench.

“You always felt confident having Carroll in court,” he said.

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at

Click here to comment on this story »