Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God

Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Promoter of Racial Unity, The Hand of the Cause of God Louis G. Gregory

Louis G. Gregory was an outstanding Baha'i who lived during the first half of the 20th Century. His services to the Baha'i Faith were in the areas of teaching, administration, and race unity.

Mr. Gregory's grandfather was murdered by the Klan.  His grandmother's life was hanging by a thread as well, but she refused either to back down, or to hate her husband's murderers.  These traits were passed down to her noble grandson.  Of him, Abdu'l-Baha wrote:

“That pure soul has a heart like unto transparent water.  He is like unto pure gold. This is why he is acceptable in any market and is current in every country.”
(Abdu'l-Baha, “To Move the World,” p. 314)

Mr. Gregory went to Ramleh, Egypt in April, 1911, to meet Abdu'l-Baha (The Priceless Pearl, p. 18).  There, he also met Shoghi Effendi, then a boy of 15, and the future Head of the Baha'i Faith.  During this pilgrimage, Abdu'l-Baha called on Mr. Gregory to work for harmony between the black and the white races, in pursuance of the great principle of the Baha'i Faith, the oneness of humanity.  Mr. Gregory devoted his life to this work.  Abdu'l-Baha wrote to him:
"I hope that thou mayest become … the means whereby the white and colored people shall close their eyes to racial differences and behold the reality of humanity, and that is the universal unity which is the oneness of the kingdom of the human race, the basic harmony of the world and the appearance of the bounty of the Almighty.  In brief, do thou not look upon. .. thy limited capacity; look thou upon the Bounties and Providence of the Lord of the Kingdom, for His Confirmation is great, and His Power unparalleled and incomparable.  Rely as much as thou canst upon the True One, and be thou resigned to the Will of God, so that like unto a candle thou mayest be enkindled in the world of humanity and like unto a star thou mayest shine and gleam from the Horizon of Reality and become the cause of the guidance of both races.”
(Abdu'l-Baha, “To Move the World,” p. 7)

Mr. Gregory was an attorney by profession, admitted to the State Bars of both Washington D.C. and New Hampshire, as well as before the Supreme Court of the United States.  He embraced the call in the Tablets of the Divine Plan and spent most of his adult life teaching the Baha'i Faith widely, in the United States as well as in Haiti, including holding race amity conferences in the South of the United States.

While in Egypt, Mr. Gregory asked Abdu'l-Baha to interpret a vision he had had several years earlier:

“Soon after accepting the Revelation the writer had a vision. (Joel 2-28) Baha'u'llah was seen with head bent gently forward. His right arm was extended and from His right side flowed four layers of mellow golden light, each layer containing numberless spirals and beautiful figures.  The light was of uniform brightness.  This vision soon vanished and I found myself turning into a street in which some enemies of the Cause of God were menacing the believers.  I raised my right hand above my head and shouted, 'It is all true!  Mine eyes have seen the Glory!'

“'Abdu'l-Baha explained. 'There are four classes of people.  The first is those who have accepted the teachings and occupy themselves spreading the Glad Tidings.  The second is those who are good believers, but make no effort to guide others.  The third is those who have heard the Message of the Kingdom but have not accepted it.  The fourth is those who have not yet heard of this Revelation.  As to the contention of those who deny and oppose, you have already had experience enough to know what this means.'"
(“A Heavenly Vista” The Pilgrimage of Louis G. Gregory)

As the direct result of the guidance of Abdu'l-Baha, Mr. Gregory married a white woman from England, Louisa Matthews:

“No objective review of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's mission to the West can fail to take into account the sobering fact that only a small number of those who had accepted the Faith -- and infinitely fewer among the public audiences who had thronged to hear His words -- derived from these priceless opportunities more than a relatively dim understanding of the implications of His message. Appreciating these limitations on the part of His hearers, 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not hesitate to introduce into His relations with Western believers actions that summoned them to a level of consciousness far above mere social liberalism and tolerance. One example that must stand for a range of such interventions was His gentle but dramatic act in encouraging the marriage of Louis Gregory and Louise Mathews -- the one black, the other white. The initiative set a standard for the American Bahá'í community as to the real meaning of racial integration, however timid and slow its members were in responding to the core implications of the challenge.”
(“Century of Light,” Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, p. 24, paragraph 3.16)

One of the events that occurred during the 1912 visit of Abdu'l-Baha to America, was during a diplomatic reception in Washington D.C.  Mr. Gregory participated in the first portion of the reception, but when the meal was served, he alone remained in the other part of the house.  This was in the days of racial segregation.  At the head of the table, Abdu'l-Baha looked around and asked, "Where is Mister Gregory?" He would not be seated until Mr. Gregory entered.  Mr. Gregory was brought to the room where the meal was being served, and Abdu'l-Baha seated him next to Himself, at the head of the table.

At the time of Mr. Gregory's passing in 1951, Shoghi Effendi cabled the Baha'is of the United States that he had elevated Mr. Gregory posthumously to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God:

“Profoundly deplore grievous loss of dearly beloved, noble-minded, golden-hearted Louis Gregory, pride and example to the Negro adherents of the Faith. Keenly feel loss of one so loved, admired and trusted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Deserves rank of first Hand of the Cause of his race. Rising Bahá'í generation in African continent will glory in his memory and emulate his example. Advise hold memorial gathering in Temple in token recognition of his unique position, outstanding services.” (Citadel of Faith, p. 163)

The following year, the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf,

“When we read in the Will and Testament how great is the function of the Hands we appreciate to what an exalted station our dear brother Louis Gregory attained..."
(Lights of Guidance, p. 524)

This is a story of Mr. Gregory's poise and powerful manner of speaking, followed by a description of him, both from page 319 of “To Move the World”:

“In another story, told to Mr. Blakely by his aunt, Hebe Struven,Louis Gregory gained through patience a victory over an unexpected humiliation. A college in Pittsburgh had heard that a Mr. Gregory of Washington, D.C., was an outstanding speaker and
had telephoned him with an invitation to lecture. He accepted, but when he arrived in Pittsburgh the group of students sent to meet him at the station had obviously not expected to have to provide hospitality for a black man. They excused themselves and left Mr. Gregory, who spent the night in the waiting room. The next day he kept his appointment, nonetheless, and at the end of his speech he received a standing ovation. 'An apology was offered for the shabby treatment,' Mr. Blakely recounted, 'and he was invited to return and speak any time he could.'
       “The powerful impression that Louis Gregory made, so strong that it could bring a white audience to its feet, is still apparent in recollections shared almost thirty years after his passing by those who knew him. They describe him graphically, as if he had just left the room. He was tall, they tell us, perhaps only about six feet but appearing taller because of his unusually erect carriage. When he spoke, he looked people in the eye, his contemporaries say; and his beautiful, deep voice held their attention. In public lectures he quoted and paraphrased extensively from the Baha'i writings, so that if his listeners closed their eyes they might have thought the words were Abdu'1-Baha's own. The effect of Mr. Gregory's stately bearing was enhanced by his immaculate grooming and his great courtesy. He was, indeed, courtly in manner, but with no affectation. At the same time he was invariably humble, without any trace of an excessive modesty that calls attention to itself. In personal conversation his eyes sparkled, and his smile was always ready – 'a most heavenly smile that will remain with me always,' in Margaret Ruhe's words.” 

"...dearly beloved, noble-minded, golden-hearted Louis Gregory" 
The Hand of the Cause of God Louis G. Gregory
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used With Permission
Please click photo for larger image

Additional Links: 

Louis Gregory page on the Official Website of the Baha'is of the United States
Louis Gregory page in The Baha'i Encyclopedia Project 
To Move The World - Biography of Louis Gregory by Gayle Morrison
Louis Gregory Baha'i Museum 
Louis Gregory Symposium on Race Unity


  1. I found this essay informative, inspiring and well-written. Thanks very much.

  2. To Move the World was written by Gayle Morrison. Please correct this error. Gayle Woolson is the author of Divine Symphony in both English and Spanish and just died two days ago at age 98.