WASHINGTON — Nellie Gray, founder and chief organizer of an annual antiabortion march in Washington and a leader in efforts to overturn the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, was found dead Monday in her Washington home. She was 86.
Ms. Gray’s death appeared to be from natural causes, said Gene Ruane, an administrator with the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.
Ms. Gray was a lawyer and former federal employee who devoted herself full time to the antiabortion movement after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The first March for Life was held on the anniversary of the ruling. Despite the January date, it is consistently one of the largest protests of the year in Washington.
Ms. Gray was the primary organizer over its 38-year history. She used the phrase ‘‘no exceptions, no compromise’’ to sum up her belief that life begins at conception and that abortion should be illegal.
At this year’s march, she referred to abortion as genocide and the Roe v. Wade decision as ‘‘an evil imposed upon our country.’’
‘‘The government must understand that they are participating in a crime against humanity which cannot be made legal,’’ she said.
Born and raised in Big Spring, Texas, Ms. Gray joined the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and served in Europe. After the war, she worked for the State Department and the Labor Department and earned a law degree from Georgetown University.
She was one of a few dozen abortion opponents who organized the first march in 1974, and shortly thereafter she founded the nonprofit March for Life Education and Defense Fund. She served as president of the group until her death.
Ms. Gray, who was single and had no children, was a longtime parishioner of St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington.