Entries

Contemporary Black Biography Contemporary Black Biography Further reading

NON JS

Gary, Willie E. 1947–

Willie E. Gary 1947

Lawyer

Persevered in Sports and Business

Earned a Scholarship Despite Hardships

Achieved Courtroom Successes

Invested in Helping Children and Families

Selected works

Sources

Willie E. Gary is one of the most successful and visible personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers in the United States. The multimillion-dollar awards that he regularly wins for his clients frequently make newspaper headlines. Viewers across the country have glimpsed his posh oceanfront house on televisions Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Unlike many others who are equally rich and famous, however, Garys life has been a true rags-to-riches story. Throughout his career, Gary has continued to use the combination of determination and skill that made possible his rise from abject poverty to a position of wealth and influence.

Gary, the sixth of Turner and Mary Garys eleven children, was born on July 12, 1947, in Eastman, Georgia. His father was a sharecropper who managed a 200-acre farm. Garys complicated birth generated steep hospital bills, forcing his father to sign over the farm in 1948. The family then moved to Silver City, Florida, where all 13 members lived in a tiny wooden shack. They became migrant workers, traveling with the seasons between the corn, sugar cane, and bean fields of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Gary began working alongside his parents and older siblings at the age of nine, attending school in the morning and hitting the fields in the afternoon.

Persevered in Sports and Business

An eager student, Gary was often frustrated by the long gaps in his education that the familys itinerant lifestyle caused. From an early age, Gary showed a strong aptitude for business. While still in junior high, he started his own lawn-mowing business, eventually saving enough money to buy a truck for his father. When the family moved to Indiantown, Florida, in 1960, Gary and his father started a business together, selling produce from the back of the truck that his lawn-mowing profits had purchased.

In high school, Gary began playing football. Although he was only five feet seven inches tall, he saw that an athletic scholarship was his best hope of attending college. After graduating from high school, Gary tried out for football scholarships at a number of Florida colleges during the summer of 1967. He made it to the final cut at one of them, Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, but ultimately failed to catch on with any of those schools. On the advice of his high school coach, Louis Rice, Gary made a final desperate attempt at landing a football scholarship by traveling to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, a traditionally black school whose football coach was an old friend of Rices.

Earned a Scholarship Despite Hardships

Gary arrived in Raleigh with $13 in his pocket and no return ticket. The Shaw football coach immediately informed Gary that there were no more spots open on the football team, especially for such a small man. Lacking money to get home, Gary hung around the university, sleeping in dormitory lounges and surviving

At a Glance

Born Willie Edward Gary on July 12, 1947, in Eastman, GA; son of Turner (a sharecropper) and Mary Gary; married Gloria Royal; children: Kenneth, Sekou, Kobie, Ali. Education: Shaw University, BA, 1971; North Carolina Central University, JD, 1974. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis & McManus (law firm), Stuart, FL, senior partner, 1975-; Gary Enterprises, co-owner; Gary Foundation, co-founder, 1994; Major Broadcasting Network, co-owner, c.2000.

Selected Memberships: American Bar Association; American Board of Trial Advocates; American Trial Lawyers Association; National Bar Association; National Bar Institute, Board of Directors; Sigma Delta Tau Legal Fraternity.

Selected Awards: Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, 1993; United Negro College Fund, National Alumni Council Achievement Award, 1993; NAACP Image Awards Key of Life, 1994; National Bar Association, C. Francis Stradford Award, 1995; Turner Broadcasting Company, Trumpet Award, 1997; Horatio Alger Award, 1999.

Addresses: Office Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis & McManus, Waterside Professional Building, 221 W. Osceola St., Stuart, FL 34994. Webwww.williegary.com.

on food smuggled out of the cafeteria by members of the football team. He cleaned the locker room and helped out the football program in other ways. The coach was duly impressed with Garys determination, and when a player was injured, Gary was offered a spot on the roster. His hard work was further rewarded when school officials eased the admission process, waived the enrollment fee, and gave him a scholarship.

Garys years at Shaw were busy ones. In addition to his role as defensive captain of the football team, he found time to marry his high school sweetheart, Gloria Royal, and have the first of their four children, son Kenneth. He also launched a successful business-lawn care once again-while still a student. By bidding on large landscaping jobs and hiring others to do the work, Gary was bringing in about $25,000 a year by the time he graduated from Shaw. In 1971 he received his degree in business administration. Rather than make a full-time career of lawn care, Gary decided to study law. He enrolled in law school at North Carolina Central University in nearby Durham. Garys second child, Sekou, was born during his stay in Durham.

Gary graduated from law school in 1974, then moved with his growing family back to Florida. The following year, at age 27, he opened Martin Countys first black law firm. Gary was the firms only attorney, and Gloria Gary handled its secretarial and administrative duties on top of her regular job as a junior college instructor in West Palm Beach. Success as a lawyer came quickly for Gary. Two high-profile cases established his reputation as a talented courtroom battler. First, he successfully defended a school bus driver accused of rape in a highly publicized criminal case. Just a few months later, Gary won his first personal injury case, earning a $250,000 settlement for the widow of a truck driver killed trying to avoid a woman who had pulled into his path. Garys success in those early cases brought a steady flow of new clients to the firm.

Achieved Courtroom Successes

Garys firm quickly began to land eye-popping settlements one after another. In 1976 the firm added two full-time secretaries and opened a second office in Fort Pierce, Florida. By the mid-1980s, the firm was grossing over $100 million a year. Gary received national attention in 1985, when he successfully sued Florida Power & Light Co. over the electrocution death of seven members of a Jupiter, Florida, family. Although the precise amount of that settlement was not disclosed, it has been estimated at $100 million, of which the law firm received about 40 percent. In 1995, Gary won a verdict of $500 million, one of the largest jury verdicts in U.S. history, and has since continued to win multi-million dollar verdicts and out-of-court settlements.

In spite of the huge sums his cases often involve, Garys acquaintances firmly and unanimously agree that it is concern for others, not money, that motivates his work. In a 1987 Ebony article, Gary was quoted as saying, I dont take pride in having good cases. Usually, a good case is a tragic situation and nobody likes to see anyone get hurt or lose their lives. As his personal wealth grew, Gary became almost as well-known for his generosity as for his courtroom skills. Before the end of the 1980s, he had already contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a variety of causes in his old hometown of Indiantown, Florida. In 1992, Gary gave his alma mater Shaw University a gift of $10 million.

By 1993 the law firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney & Lewis had 70 employees. Within ten years, the firm had expanded to 130 employees, including attorneys, accountants, doctors, paralegals, a full-time investigator, and others. In addition to the law firm, Gary and his wife also operate Gary Enterprises, a company organized to manage their many ventures in real estateincluding the buildings that house the law firms Stuart and Fort Pierce officesand other areas, with the couples oldest son, Kenneth, serving as president and CEO. Although the people who have known him for a long time swear that money has not changed him, Gary is not bashful about his wealth. He lives in a $5 million oceanfront palace and drives, among many other luxury cars, a Rolls Royce, and often travels in a customized Boeing 737 jet named Wings of Justice.

Garys fame has been enhanced by his many television appearances. He was featured in a 1992 episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Other appearances have included spots on the Oprah Winfrey Show and CBS Evening Newss Eye on America with Dan Rather. He was also featured as Person of the Week on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Gary counts among his personal friends celebrities from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment. He has served for several years as General Counsel to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and in 1994 he received the 26th Annual NAACP Image Award Key of Life.

In August of 1995, Gary was selected from among 25,000 lawyers for the C. Francis Stradford Award, the National Bar Associations highest honor. In choosing Gary for the award, his peers recognized that his contributions to law and to society extend far beyond the multimillion-dollar settlements he wins for his clients. As Gary stated upon accepting his Stradford Award, I do what I do, not for the money or publicity, but because I love my profession and people. The only way our children will believe that they can attain their goals is for us to encourage them and provide a path for them to follow.

Invested in Helping Children and Families

Gary has continued to blaze a path and to inspire others to follow. He told Black Collegian Magazine that No one person is an island. Regardless of how successful you become, you will need someone to lean on, someone to inspire you, someone who will say you can. And Gary lives his words. In addition to practicing law, Gary established the Gary Foundation, an organization committed to education and drug prevention. The Foundation, co-created with his wife in 1994, offers scholarships and other support to help children achieve their academic goals. Garys son Kenneth serves as the president and CEO of the Foundation. Gary himself travels the country to speak at schools to encourage children to seek higher education and to shun drugs. He also created a television campaign to broadcast his message Education is Power, to a wider audience. Gary also owns the Major Broadcasting Cable Network, based in Atlanta, Georgia. As chairman and CEO of the network, Gary devotes the programming of the 24-hour cable channel to family-friendly, positive shows for urban black viewers. Gary himself hosts Spiritual Impact, a weekly talk show on the network which features discussions with nationally prominent guests about the spiritual perspectives of education, economics, and politics. In 2001 Gary began offering free advertising to historically black colleges and universities on the network. Although his shoes are hard to fill, Gary is dedicated to helping others strive to. Gary summed up his philosophy on the Gary Foundation Web site: Dont just be another member of society; be a living example of your dreams and goals.

Selected works

Spiritual Impact (television talk show), 2001-.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, August 1993, p. 68.

Columbus Times, September 19, 1995, p. B5.

Ebony, October 1987, p. 127; October 1992, p. 106.

New York Times, February 5, 1992, p. B7.

People Weekly, April 13, 1992, p. 65.

On-line

Willie Gary: Rises from Migrant Farmer to Multi-Millionaire Attorney, Black Collegian Magazine, www.black-collegian.com/issues/1stsem01/williegary2001-lst.shtml#top (July 22, 2004).

Willie Gary, www.williegary.com (July 22, 2004).

Robert R. Jacobson and Sara Pendergast

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

Jacobson, Robert; Pendergast, Sara. "Gary, Willie E. 1947–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Jacobson, Robert; Pendergast, Sara. "Gary, Willie E. 1947–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3431200025.html

Jacobson, Robert; Pendergast, Sara. "Gary, Willie E. 1947–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3431200025.html

Gary, Willie E. 1947—

Willie E. Gary 1947

Attorney

Used Football as Ticket to College

Founded Countys First Black Law Firm

Lifestyle Featured on TV

Sources

Willie E. Gary is one of the most successful and visible personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers in the United States. The multimillion-dollar awards that he regularly wins for his clients frequently make newspaper headlines. Viewers across the country have glimpsed his posh oceanfront house on televisions Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Unlike many others who are equally rich and famous, however, Garys life has been a true rags-to-riches story. Throughout his career, Gary has continued to use the combination of determination and skill that made possible his rise from abject poverty to a position of wealth and influence.

Gary, the sixth of Turner and Mary Garys eleven children, was born on July 12, 1947, in Eastman, Georgia. His father was a sharecropper who managed a 200-acre farm. Garys complicated birth generated steep hospital bills, forcing his father to sign over the farm in 1948. The family then moved to Silver City, Florida, where all 13 members lived in a tiny wooden shack. They became migrant workers, traveling with the seasons between the corn, sugar cane, and bean fields of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Gary began working alongside his parents and older siblings at the age of nine, attending school in the morning and hitting the fields in the afternoon.

Used Football as Ticket to College

An eager student, Gary was often frustrated by the long gaps in his education that the familys itinerant lifestyle caused. From an early age, Gary showed a strong aptitude for business. While still in junior high, he started his own lawn-mowing business, eventually saving enough money to buy a truck for his father. When the family moved to Indiantown, Florida, in 1960, Gary and his father started a business together, selling produce from the back of the truck that his lawn-mowing profits had purchased.

In high school, Gary began playing football. Although he was only five feet seven inches tall, he saw that an athletic scholarship was his best hope of attending college. After graduating from high school, Gary tried out for football scholarships at a number of Florida colleges during the summer of 1967. He made it to the final cut at one of them, Bethune-Cookman College in

At a Glance

Full name, Willie Edward Gary; born July 12, 1947, in Eastman, GA; son of Turner (a share cropper) and Mary Gary; married Gloria Royal; children (all sons); Kenneth, Sekou, Kobie, Ali. Education: Shaw University, B.A., 1971; North Carolina Central University, J.D., 1974. Polttics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.

Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis & McManus (law firm), Stuart, FL, senior partner, 1975; Gary Enterprises, president.

Member: American Bar Association; American Board of Trial Advocates; American Trial Lawyers Association; Federal Judicial Nominating Committee; National Bar Association; National Bar Institute, Board of Directors; Sigma Delta Tau Legal Fraternity; NAACP; National Rainbow Coalition, Board of Trustees; Urban League.

Awards: United Negro College Fund, College Alumni of the Year, 1989; Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, 1993; Council of Independent Colleges, Award for Personal Philanthropy & Volunteerism, 1993; United Negro College Fund, National Alumni Council Achievement Award, 1993; NAACP Image Awards Key of Life, 1994; C. Francis Stradford Award, National Bar Association, 1995. Received honorary degrees from North Carolina Central University, 1990, Bethune-Cookman College, 1991, Shaw University, 1991, Florida Memorial College, 1992, Southern University, 1992, and Nova University, 1994.

Addresses: Office Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis & McManus, Waterside Professional Building, 221 W. Osceola St., Stuart, FL 34994.

Daytona Beach, but ultimately failed to catch on with any of those schools. On the advice of his high school coach, Louis Rice, Gary made a final desperate attempt at landing a football scholarship by traveling to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, a traditionally black school whose football coach was an old friend of Rices.

Gary arrived in Raleigh with $13 in his pocket and no return ticket. The Shaw football coach immediately informed Gary that there were no more spots open on the football team, especially for such a small man. Lacking money to get home, Gary hung around the university, sleeping in dormitory lounges and surviving on food smuggled out of the cafeteria by members of the football team. He cleaned the locker room and helped out the football program in other ways. The coach was duly impressed with Garys determination, and when a player was injured, Gary was offered a spot on the roster. His hard work was further rewarded when school officials eased the admission process, waived the enrollment fee, and gave him a scholarship.

Garys years at Shaw were busy ones. In addition to his role as defensive captain of the football team, he found time to marry his high school sweetheart, Gloria Royal, and have the first of their four children, son Kenneth. He also launched a successful business--lawn care once again-while still a student. By bidding on large landscaping jobs and hiring others to do the work, Gary was bringing in about $25,000 a year by the time he graduated from Shaw. In 1971 he received his degree in business administration. Rather than make a full-time career of lawn care, Gary decided to study law. He enrolled in law school at North Carolina Central University in nearby Durham. Garys second child, Sekou, was born during his stay in Durham.

Founded Countys First Black Law Firm

Gary graduated from law school in 1974, then moved with his growing family back to Florida. The following year, at age 27, he opened Martin Countys first black law firm. Gary was the firms only attorney, and Gloria Gary handled its secretarial and administrative duties on top of her regular job as a junior college instructor in West Palm Beach. Success as a lawyer came quickly for Gary. Two high-profile cases established his reputation as a talented courtroom battler. First, he successfully defended a school bus driver accused of rape in a highly publicized criminal case. Just a few months later, Gary won his first personal injury case, earning a $250,000 settlement for the widow of a truck driver killed trying to avoid a woman who had pulled into his path. Garys success in those early cases brought a steady flow of new clients to the firm.

Garys firm quickly began to land eye-popping settlements one after another. In 1976 the firm added two full-time secretaries and opened a second office in Fort Pierce, Florida. By the mid-1980s, the firm was grossing over $100 million a year. Gary received national attention in 1985, when he successfully sued Florida Power & Light Co. over the electrocution death of seven members of a Jupiter, Florida family. Although the precise amount of that settlement was not disclosed, it has been estimated at $100 million, of which the law firm received about 40 percent.

In spite of the huge sums his cases often involve, Garys acquaintances firmly and unanimously agree that it is concern for others, not money, that motivates his work. In a 1987 Ebony article, Gary was quoted as saying, I dont take pride in having good cases. Usually, a good case is a tragic situation and nobody likes to see anyone get hurt or lose their lives. As his personal wealth grew, Gary became almost as well-known for his generosity as for his courtroom skills. Before the end of the 1980s, he had already contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a variety of causes in his old hometown of Indiantown, Florida. In 1992, Gary gave his alma mater Shaw University a gift of $10 million. He has also spoken voluntarily before countless community and school groups over the years.

Lifestyle Featured on TV

By 1993 the law firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney & Lewis had 70 employees. In addition to the firm, Gary and his wife also operate Gary Enterprises, a company organized to manage their many ventures in real estateincluding the buildings that house the law firms Stuart and Fort Pierce offices-and other areas, with Gloria Gary serving as CEO. Although the people who have known him for a long time swear that money has not changed him, Gary is not bashful about his wealth. He lives in a $5 million oceanfront palace and drives, among many other luxury cars, a Rolls Royce.

Garys fame has been enhanced by his many television appearances. He was featured in a 1992 episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Other appearances have included spots on the Oprah Winfrey Show and CBS Evening Newss Eye on America with Dan Rather. He was also featured as Person of the Week on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Gary counts among his personal friends celebrities from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment. He has served for several years as General Counsel to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and in 1994 he received the 26th Annual NAACP Image Award Key of Life.

In August of 1995, Gary was selected from among 25,000 lawyers for the C. Francis Stradford Award, the National Bar Associations highest honor. In choosing Gary for the award, his peers recognized that his contributions to law and to society extend far beyond the multimillion-dollar settlements he wins for his clients. As Gary stated upon accepting his Stradford Award, I do what I do, not for the money or publicity, but because I love my profession and people. The only way our children will believe that they can attain their goals is for us to encourage them and provide a path for them to follow.

Sources

Black Enterprise, August 1993, p. 68

Columbus Times, September 19, 1995, p. B5.

Ebony, October 1987, p. 127; October 1992, p. 106.

New York Times, February 5, 1992, p. B7.

People Weekly, April 13, 1992, p. 65.

Robert R. Jacobson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

Jacobson, Robert. "Gary, Willie E. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Jacobson, Robert. "Gary, Willie E. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871400024.html

Jacobson, Robert. "Gary, Willie E. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871400024.html

Facts and information from other sites