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Gary, Willie(1947–) - Lawyer, Son of Sharecroppers, Chronology, Repays Shaw Several Times Over, Launches Cable Network

million gary’s family father

Trial lawyer Willie E. Gary has been called one of the most compelling courtroom orators of the modern age. Known as the “giant killer” for his legal victories against corporations and insurance companies in cases where his clients have sued to collect personal-injury damage awards, Gary has racked up some impressive statistics, including a $500 million verdict in 1995 that set a new record in American legal history. “I won’t rest until I try and win a billion-dollar case,” Gary told Ebony writers Joy Bennett Kinnon and Vandell Cobb. “It’s not just the money; it’s a testament to being one of the best lawyers I can be and a message—that you can’t cheat poor people.”

Son of Sharecroppers

Gary’s rise to multimillionaire attorney seems all the more remarkable given his humble origins. He was born on July 12, 1947, in Eastman, Georgia, where his parents, Turner and Mary Gary, lived on their farm with Gary’s five older siblings. His arrival was a difficult one for his mother, and a twin did not survive the birth. Resulting medical complications put Mary Gary in the hospital, and the debts that her treatment incurred, combined with other financial problems, forced Turner Gary to sign over the deed to the farm a year later. The senior Gary had an education that stopped at the second grade, and lacking any other source of income, he moved his family to Florida, where he, his wife, and the older children worked as sharecroppers in Canal Point, a small farming community in Palm Beach County. There, the Garys lived in a three-room shack with no electricity or plumbing. They headed to the Carolinas in the summer months to join the migrant-labor armies that picked cotton, corn, string beans, and other crops during the harvest season.

Gary himself began working at the age of five, carrying water to the farm workers and progressed to working in the fields himself. “By the time I was 10, I was a working man. I could pick 10 to 15 bushels of beans in a day,” he told Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times . Eventually, his father bought a truck for selling food and water to the field workers, and Gary often worked alongside him. Because of the crop-harvest schedule, schooling was intermittent, with the children attending only half-days during the harvest months. As he grew older, Gary dreamed of a way to contribute financially to the family, and near their Florida home he convinced the local feed-store owner to let him purchase a lawn mower on credit. He set up a landscaping business, paid off the debt, and turned the remaining money over to his father, which enabled Turner to buy a produce truck.

Chronology

1947

Born in Eastman, Georgia on July 12

1960

Moves with family to Indiantown, Florida

1968

Marries childhood sweetheart, Gloria Royal

1971

Graduates from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina

1974

Earns law degree and passes Florida bar exam

1975

Opens storefront law office in Stuart, Florida

1984

Wins first million-dollar jury verdict

1991

Donates $10 million to Shaw University

1995

Successfully argues for a record $500 million jury verdict

Repays Shaw Several Times Over

Gary’s generosity with his own personal fortune has become legendary. Earlier in his career, he bought his father a farm, as repayment for the deed he signed over in 1948 to pay that hospital bill, and later built a house for his widowed mother. In 1991, he made a gift to Shaw University of $10 million, at a time when his alma mater was nearing bankruptcy. It was the largest ever for an alumnus of a historically black school to give the institution from which the benefactor had graduated, and Gary also organized a fundraising drive that netted another $17 million for Shaw’s coffers.

Gary’s personal bequest to Shaw put him in the same upper echelons as entertainment personalities Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom had made generous donations to older schools that had helped generations of African Americans achieve a college degree. “I think we’re all indebted to Black colleges,” he said in the interview with Chappelle for Black Collegian in 1994. “But for one of our historically Black colleges, I would not be where I am. They were considerate enough to take a chance on a farm boy who’d been turned down and told he wasn’t college material.” Gary eventually set up a foundation bearing his family name that donates to worthy causes. It has provided scholarships to disadvantaged college-bound students in Martin County, and helped build a church back in Indiantown.

By 2003, Gary’s Stuart-based law firm—officially known as Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney & Lewis—boasted 130 employees and satellite offices in several states. His oldest son, Kenneth, runs a real-estate management company that serves as a sideline business for Gary and his thirst for good investments. His most impressive parcel of land, however, is a 25,000-square-foot, fifty-room oceanfront home on the St. Lucie River in Stuart, that reportedly cost $10 million. “Villa de Gloria,” named in homage to his wife, is a lavish palace, but Gary is also proud of his personal aircraft, a Boeing 737 that he uses for business, which features 24-karat gold fixtures. He is one of the few American citizens to own a jet outright, and he calls it the “Wings of Justice.” Its goal, beyond helping him win cases in other states and then make it home for dinner on time, is to intimidate his legal opponents, he told Ebony writer Kevin Chappell. “They know their worst nightmare has come true,” he joked. “When we land in the big bird, they know they got to pay. Stop arguing ‘cause you got to pay. That’s all there is to it.”

Launches Cable Network

Gary has also ventured into media ownership, launching the Major Broadcasting Cable Network in 1998 with sports figures Evander Holyfield and Cecil Fielder as well as Marlon Jackson, formerly of the Jackson 5, and Alvin James, an entertainment executive. The network has a cable presence called the Black Family Channel, which presents positive, uplifting fare aimed at African American viewers. Gary hosts his own show in which he interviews others about the role faith has played in their lives. “Inspiring our children is the most important thing we can do for our country, and I guess you could say this is what’s burning in my belly,” he asserted in the St. Petersburg Times interview with Smith. “People are saying this (network) can’t be done, and I feel like my reputation is on the line. When I’m determined, I won’t ever give up.”

Gary’s own family includes several grandchildren from his four sons, Kenneth, Sekou, Ali, and Kobie. In a 1990 Ebony article that asked individuals to reveal their personal hero or unexpected mentor, he recalled that it was his own father who provided the greatest inspiration. “It was that guy with the second-grade education who had the greatest impact on me, who knew just what to say to motivate me,” Gary wrote of his father. “He faced a lot of obstacles, but he moved each one. Watching and listening to him changed and shaped my life.”

Gascoigne, George (c. 1539–1577) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION [next] [back] Garrod, Sir Archibald Edward

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almost 6 years ago

I would like MR.Gary Willie (1947) to try my case.

I will be 74 years old in less than

two months. For 14 years I have never been late or missed a MORTGAGE

PAYMENT UNTIL CITIMORTGAGE DISENABLED THE COMPUTER AT CITIBANK

WHERE I WAS MAKING MY PAYMENTS. I

PAID 80% OF MY MORTGAGE SO I DID NOT

NEED ESCROW. MY HOME IS WORTH

$160,000.00, CITIMORTGAGE WAS NOT MY

ORIGINAL LENDER, MY ACCOUNT WAS SOLD

TO THEM. I NOW OWE $8,630.00 TO THEM. MY HOME IS COVERED, BUT

CITIMORTGAGE IS MAKING ME PAY FOR

THEIR INSURANCE.

MY MORTGAGE PAYMENT A MONTH $371.30

CITIMORTGAGE INSURANCE A MONTH $750.00. MAKING MY PAYMENT TO THEM

NOW $1,111.79 A MONTH. I AM WELL

ABLE TO PAY MY MORTGAGE OF $371.30.

I REFUSE TO PAY CITIMORTGAGE INSURANCE OF $750.00. THEY DID THIS

TO ME ONCE BEFORE AND I PAID. I

DROPPED THE INSURANCE I HAD, BUT I

NOW AM WELL COVERED.

MY HOME WAS A RENTAL AND I WENT FROM

PAY DAY TO PAY DAY FOR 14 yRS. TO FIX UP AND MAKE MY HOME WHAT IT IS NOW INCLUDING PLANNING TREES AND BUSHES.

I BOUGHT IT AT $97,000.00 AND NOW IT

IS WORTH $160,000.00.CITIMORTGAGE IS

TRYING TO GET IT FOR $8,630.00.

I TRIED TO PAY MY MORTGAGE AT CITI-

BANK WHERE I HAD STARTED MAKING MY

PAYMENTS INSTEAD OF SENDING IT IN.

THE CLERK AT CITIBANK SAID THE KEYES

WERE DISABLED AND CITIMORTGAGE WOULD

NOT TAKE MY PAYMENT UNTLESS I PAID

THEIR INSURANCE ABOUT ALSO OF $750.00 A MONTH.

JEAN DERRY / 5725 JESTER DRIVE/

GARLAND, TX/ 75044/ PHONE#972.530.5431

I HAVE WRITTEN TO THE WHITE HOUSE

ALSO TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TX.

I HAVE HEARD NOTHING.

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about 7 years ago

I am so tired of reading about Willie Gary's $10 million gift to Shaw Uiversity! It didn't happen! The truth is he did not GIVE Shaw that amount, he PLEDGED that amount to Shaw...about 20 yrs ago! To date he has not come close to fulfilling that pledge. The sickening part is that he allows and perpetuates this "gift myth" in interviews, articles and on the web. I guess it makes him feel "big".