The Inola Register
January 17, 1918
Prisoner Attends Church
A copy of one of the strangest documents ever issued to a convict is on file in the office of A. M. Crook, state pardon and parole officer. Governor Williams is the author of the document and it provides that Dr. J. S. Gray, who was sentenced to the state penitentiary for life on a murder charge, shall have the right to leave the prison each Sunday and go to McAlester that he may worship in the church of his choice.
The case of Gray is one of the strangest in the annals of Oklahoma. A veteran of the Civil War, in which he was wounded seven times, a newspaper man and a practicing physician, he was for twenty-three years a resident of Oklahoma. It was after he had lived his three score and ten years- had reached the age of 71- that Dr. Gray fell into the path that took him to the state prison.
It was in 1914 that he shot and killed Simon Cochran, one of his tenants on a farm in Bryan County. According to Gray the trouble which led to the killing was caused by Cochran transporting liquor. Gray’s defense was that he shot in self-defense, but the jury found him guilty and his punishment was fixed at life imprisonment.
At the age of 72 he began serving a life term in the penitentiary. Efforts were made to get him a pardon, but the final result was a commutation of his sentence to twenty years, which was slight solace for a man 72 years old.
Dr. Gray has not missed a Sabbath at church since he was committed. He has gone to all the churches in McAlester, as he says he likes a change of preachers occasionally.