Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life event that now draws hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers to rally for the unborn, has passed away. She was 86.
On January 22, 1974, Gray held the first rally in Washington, D.C., that would become known as the March for Life. Since then, as many as 225,000 people have gathered to attend the event, according to the March for Life website.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said Gray and her organization had the "most profound effect" on his life.
"Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life," Pavone said. He attends the March for Life rally each year.
"Her own commitment to the cause never wavered," he continued. "She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was 'no exceptions.' "
After learning of Gray's death, Pavone posted excerpts of an email she sent him "a matter of days ago." She was following up on a meeting the two had about her vision for the upcoming March for Life.
"Of course, the purpose of the March for Life is still to overturn Roe v. Wade and gain protection for the right to life of each born and pre-born human - no exception and no compromise!" Gray began.
She went on to say fighting for the unborn is "the right and only position to take for our beloved country."
Gray vowed, "We can stop this killing" with unity.
"After 40 years and 55,000,000 killed pre-born babies, we must get unity among pro-life people to gain the 'pro-life strength and sound message,'" she said. "We shall unify and stop the evil of abortion because it is evil."
"Sincerely in Life, Nellie," Gray ended the letter.
Gray was also remembered Tuesday by American Values President Gary Bauer as "a tireless defender of women and the unborn."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was thankful that "Nellie lived a life of heroic service to the unborn."
The 40th annual March for Life is set for Jan. 24-25, 2013.
The circumstances of Gray's death were not disclosed.