Dr. Roland Gray — a pioneer for treating addiction in Tennessee — died Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was 71.
A pediatrician for most of his career, Gray — who was in long-term recovery from alcoholism — switched to helping addicts full time in the late 1990s, often for no pay.
"Dr. Gray was a pioneer in addiction treatment in the state of Tennessee," said Samuel A. MacMaster, former longtime social work professor at University of Tennessee/Nashville and co-founder of Nashville-based JourneyPure addiction treatment centers.
"He was a warm, wonderful, calm father figure for the recovery community."
Among his roles was medical director for the Tennessee Medical Foundation, which helps addicted doctors get into recovery. He served at the foundation from 2002 to 2017.
Gray also served for more than 20 years as volunteer medical director for Renewal House, a residential recovery program that provides treatment for low-income mothers along with housing for them and their children.
"He treated people with dignity and respect," said Renewal House CEO Pamela Sessions.
"He was the type of person who, anyone who came in contact with him wanted to be around him."
Gray was a founder and active board member for a foundation that supports residential treatment for inmates incarcerated for felony drug charges. For the last several years, Gray also organized and attended an annual holiday party where recovering physicians give inmates' children presents.
"He was one the nicest, kindest individuals I’ve ever come across in my life," said Judge Seth Norman, founder of Nashville's drug court and himself in recovery.
"His quiet demeanor and manner was a guide for all of us, as far as I’m concerned."
Gray's twin brother, Roger, was impressed by Roland Gray's hands-on approach to recovery.
"You find people who do some work on boards," Roger Gray said. "But he was out there in the trenches."
In addition to Roger Gray, the physician is survived by his wife, Diane; two sons, Will and Andrew; a daughter, Camillia; and six grandchildren.
Visitation is set for noon Friday (Oct. 12) at St. George's Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Pike, with a funeral service to follow at 1:30 p.m.