Oxford Lions Club members ring the bell in honor of Mayor Gray12/13/2021 11:54PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Residents of Oxford are missing a familiar face this year—that of Mayor Harold “Wimpy” Gray, who rang the bell for the Salvation Army from 1965 until 2020. Gray passed away earlier this year.
Before the bell ringers came out, people were missing Gray at Redner’s Market, Wawa in Nottingham, and the Walmart. Gray brought in thousands of dollars for the town he loved in those years he was stationed outside local stores. People would go out during the holidays just to see him and chat with him. And no matter the weather, snow, sleet, rain, and frigid temperatures, he was there—smiling and ringing the bell.
This year, the Oxford Lions Club stepped up to pick up the torch and ring the bell and, according to Lions Club president Mike Baker, “We intend to do this every year going forward.”
So it was a pleasant surprise to see Lions’ Club members Mike Baker and Wendy Smith, standing and chatting with Isabelle Myers as they rang the bell in front of the Oxford Walmart.
It was bittersweet to see new faces and continue to mourn the passing of Mayor Gray, but it was another reminder of how one man can change the world for one town and beyond.
Gray left a legacy that will continue to be talked about and written about, but perhaps his greatest legacy is the one of a great man, a man who happened to be black at a time when this country forbid his very entrance into the very stores that he protected as a police officer, and later stood in front of, ringing a bell to bring in donations for those he wanted to provide for.
It wasn’t just about making a brighter Christmas for some, although the Salvation Army certainly does that. It was also about feeding the hungry, keeping the lights on and a home heated, and a roof over the heads of those that need a helping hand.
Gray said to many who listened to him as they put money in that red bucket, “I always knew “things” would get better. He may have meant that for a population that still is waiting for equality, but to anyone who knew him, he wanted things to get better for everyone no matter their color.
And he imprinted that lesson of humanity upon the Oxford Lions Club, and that organization’s members wouldn’t let that Salvation Army bell go silent in the town of Oxford.
You will see members of the Lions Club and other persons who Wimpy Gray left a piece of his heart with ringing the bell this year and years to come. He made us kinder, gentler people and when I hear that bell, I see the glorious smile of Wimpy Gray and feel his warmth.
The Oxford Lions Club is looking for members. If you are interested in joining the Oxford Lions Club call Mike Baker at 484-644-0943 or Wendy Smith at 484-459-6940 for more information. The Lion’s Clubs is a community service organization that provides services and programs at the local and international levels. They donate all money that is raised to charities in Oxford and around the world.