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Wilmington mourns the death of Councilwoman Linda Gray

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Linda Gray, councilwoman in Wilmington’s First District died unexpectedly after contracting pneumonia.

Gray died Monday night according to a statement issued by Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.

“Her death is sad and a shock to us all,” said Purzycki in the statement. “We are thankful to her for the years she gave to make her local community and Wilmington a better place to live.”

She is survived by her husband Harold who Council President Trippi Congo described as her best friend, while Purzycki called them a “wonderful team.”

Gray served on Wilmington City Council since being chosen in February 2019 to fill the 1st District seat left vacant by Nnamdi Chukwuocha when he was elected to the State House. Gray was elected to the seat in 2020.

Prior to that Gray served as a Probation/Parole officer for 30 years and magistrate judge, and she also served in various roles with the Brandywine Hills Community Association. She’s been a resident in the 1st District for more than 40 years.

Congo says Gray was tough but fair.

"She believed what she believed. You couldn't really try to get her to change her vote or change her mind about anything that she thought was the right thing to do for her constituents. She did not go along just to get along. She was who she was, and if she didn't like it you just had to deal with it. It wasn't personal, it was just that she thought that was the best thing to do for her community," said Congo.

A statement from City Council described Gray as a committed advocate and a voice for women on and off council.

2nd District Councilwoman Shané Darby says she is not only losing a friend, but Wilmington is losing someone truly dedicated to the community.

"I am heartbroken," she said. "I have lost someone who was an ally, in my opinion, to pushing a lot of community centered legislation. I am going to miss her wisdom. She was able to give me a lot of advice."

Darby says she and Gray bonded over many things, and that Gray didn't choose sides, but worked with everyone no matter the politics.

"Because of us being vocal about issues that we see in the community that we believe should be addressed, we have been pushed out of conversations," Darby said. "We have been bullied, but then pushing against that to say 'hey, we have a voice too.' We should be able to participate as people who have been elected by our districts and make decisions."

Darby mentions Gray's work in housing legislation, like a bill for home owner down payment assistance, and says she was working on inclusionary zoning and a housing trust too.

"No nonsense kind of lady who just wanted to improve the lives of people who she represented. She loved Brandywine Hills, her neighbors, her community, and she loved the First District. She just was really a rational thinker," said Congo.

Gray is the third member or former member of council to die in recent months. Rysheema Dixon died in September and Loretta Walsh died last month. In honor of Gray, city flags will fly at half-staff.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.