Killeen city officials and residents gathered Thursday to pay tribute to longtime local hero, the late Robert Gray.

Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin addressed a crowd at the Killeen City Cemetery, and made an official proclamation of “Bob Gray Day.”

The proclamation is given each year in memory of Killeen native and World War II pilot Robert Gray.

Gray, who was born in 1919 and grew up in Killeen, was a skilled pilot who was chosen to fly in the famous Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in April 1942. While he was successful with his mission, Gray was killed in action just six months later at the age of 23 during a mission near Assam, India.

Killeen’s 18th mayor, R.T. Polk, was the first Killeen mayor to proclaim April 18 as Bob Gray Day in memory of Gray. The proclamation has been made each year on the same day by subsequent mayors.

“It is my great honor as a mayor and veteran to continue this tradition,” Corbin said.

In the years since his death, the city has also named a street in downtown Killeen after Gray, and built a historic display and bronze statue in his memory at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.

This year marked the 71st anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. Mark Manning, a local living relative of Gray’s, said he was happy to see the city remembering one of its heroes each year.

“He was just 23 years old, and he really was a hero in our town,” said Manning. “I appreciate the honor the city brings to him each year.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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