Buddy Gray

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James E. "Buddy" Gray (born 1957) is the senior pastor of Hunter Street Baptist Church, which he has led from an average attendance of around 120 in 1986 to its present membership of over 7,500.

Gray, while a student at Samford University, was called to become the youth pastor at Hunter Street in 1978. He graduated Samford in 1979 and went to seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas the next fall. He then pastored for three years in Troy before returning to Hunter Street in 1986.

In 1987 he led the dwindling congregation in the sale of the former church building on 4th Court West in West End to Sardis Baptist Church and the construction of a new church campus on John Hawkins Parkway in Hoover.

In 1990 Gray attended a week-long conference at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California. He returned with a new vision of how to lead his church and implemented the "Purpose Driven" philosophy to Hunter Street's ministry.

In 1998, Gray was elected President of the Alabama Baptist Convention in a narrowly-contested vote. He defeated opponent Tom Whatley of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals by 11 votes.

On June 21, 2001, Gray was one of 32 Alabama religious leaders who met with President George W. Bush during his visit to Birmingham. The topic of conversation at their conference was the reawakening of America's "spiritual zeal" and the president's initiatives for faith-based educational and social programs.

In 2002, Gray enrolled in the Doctoral program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, which he completed while continuing to serve as pastor at Hunter Street.

In September 2005 Gray, who weighed well over 300 pounds at the time, began a Nutrimed diet plan supervised by Raymonda Jaggers at Bariatric Medicine Associates in Homewood. After 12 months he lost 120 pounds.

Gray was named "Distinguished Alumnus of the Year" for 2006 by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves on the Board of Trustees..


  • Ellaby, Liz (September 29, 2006) "Megachurch pastor turns 'mini'." Birmingham News.