S. McKinley Gray, III

Labor and Employment Attorney
Ward and Smith, P.A.
Email smg@wardandsmith.com
252.672.5476 Fax 252.672.5477
Post Office Box 867, New Bern, NC 28563-0867
Post Office Box 33009, Raleigh, NC 27636-3009
The Vault @ 411 Front Street (no mail service), Beaufort, NC

Ken leads the firm's Labor and Employment Practice Group. His practice experience encompasses various areas of employment-related litigation.  He advises clients and litigates cases involving all forms of employment discrimination, wrongful discharge, and breach of employment contracts from small start-up companies to Fortune 500 corporations. 

Additionally, Ken regularly navigates complex complaints and conducts sensitive internal corporate workplace investigations, including sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, and malfeasance.

Ken is a frequent lecturer on employment discrimination, workplace retaliation, and wage and hour issues. He also serves in leadership roles with various legal and civic organizations. He is a former president of the Craven County Bar Association, a former two-term president of the Board of Directors for the United Way of Coastal Carolina, and Chairman of the Deacons of First Baptist Church of New Bern.


  • J.D., magna cum laude, Campbell Law School, 1993. Business Editor, Campbell Law Review.
  • B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1990. Dean's List. Johnston Scholar.

Honors and Distinctions*

  • The Best Lawyers in America, Best Lawyers®, 2009-2017, 2019-2024
  • "Labor and Employment Star," Benchmark Litigation, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
  • "Legal Elite," Business North Carolina, 2010, 2012, 2013-2017, 2022

Best Lawyers Logo    

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • American Bar Association — Sections: Labor and Employment Law; Litigation
  • Craven County Bar Association (secretary/treasurer 1998-1999; president 1999-2000)
  • North Carolina Bar Association — Committee: Quality of Life (co-chair 1995)
  • North Carolina Bar Association — Sections: Labor and Employment Law; Litigation; Workers' Compensation

Admitted to Practice

  • North Carolina, 1993
  • All state courts in North Carolina
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of North Carolina

About Me

My motto is "work hard and play hard." 

The best thing about Ward and Smith is that we always put our clients first in anything we do. We try to look at the big picture for each client even if the particular client is only focused on the short term goal.  Often, we demonstrate that the short term goal may not be in the client's best interest, and the client is thankful that we are not afraid to say things that the client initially may not want to hear.

* Please see the following websites for an explanation of the membership standards for the following recognitions: www.bestlawyers.com; businessnc.com/special-sections/legal-elite/; and www.superlawyers.com/north-carolina.

An attorney‑client relationship may only be established through direct attorney‑to‑client communication that is confirmed by the execution of an engagement agreement. The content of any unsolicited email sent to Ward and Smith, P.A., or to any of its attorneys at an email address available on this website, will not create an attorney‑client relationship and the contents of such unsolicited email shall not be considered confidential. Therefore, do not use this website or the email addresses available on this website to provide confidential information about yourself or a legal matter to Ward and Smith or any of its attorneys.

  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Legal Elite Business North Carolina 2024
  • Super Lawyers 2021
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers 2023
  • U.S. News Best Lawyers 20234

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