by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Willie Gary has distinguished himself as one of the ultimate head hunters of the legal profession. When corporations do something wrong, Gary and his extraordinary team of attorneys hold them accountable. Gary has achieved quite a bit during his long careeer in the legal profession, but recently made headlines with a stunning $23.6 billion dollar verdict against RJ Reynolds Tobacco.
Gary is not only an amazing lawyer, he gives back to his community. He is a major contributor to HBCUs and community causes throughout the nation. He also mentors hundreds of young black attorneys seeking to follow in his footsteps. He, along with Charles Ogletree at Harvard University, are blazing trails for black lawyers that will leave a mark for years to come.
Gary came from very humble beginnings as the son of a sharecropper. He was also told that he wasn’t smart enough to go to college, which is yet another reminder of the fact that we cannot trust others to evaluate the abilities of our children. Of course, he proved everyone wrong, but has gone above and beyond by not just being a great attorney, but for also being a great black man.
Gary attended an HBCU for law school, North Carolina Central University and opened his first law firm right out of school. Gary is also the founder of The Black Family Channel and has won over 150 multi-million dollar lawsuits.
In this conversation, I speak with another outstanding attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons, about the Gary verdict against Reynolds, as well as the implications of Willie Gary’s presence in the legal profession. The overall point here is that it’s nice to be great at what you do; however, when you make others around you great in the process, this gives you the key to immortality.
Another important point made during the conversation with Damario is that the success of Gary, as well as countless doctors, lawyers, professors and business people around the country, is a glaring message to young people, especially black men: Stop believing that your only way out of the hood is to dribble a basketball of throw a football. There are thousands of African Americans across the country who have used the power of education and entrepreneurship as their pathway to wealth. Most NBA athletes don’t have a 747 jet like Willie Gary, and most of them will never dream of becoming billionaires.
I would say that Willie Gary might be the new Johnny Cochran. But it’s not entirely clear which of these two great black attorneys is the greatest beast in the courtroom. Either way, I’m proud of his accomplishments, and see the career of Willie Gary as one of the great black wealth transfers of the 21st century. We need a thousand others just like him.
The interview is below. Enjoy.