'50 was honored by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission for his
volunteer legal work on behalf of elderly clients.
May 14, 2008:
Gregory '50 Taking legal care of Bloomington's old and infirm
Fred Gregory '50 isn't the kind of lawyer whose cases typically
go before the Indiana Supreme Court. He represents the old and the
sick, often for free. When colleagues first suggested nominating
him for an award recognizing his decades of volunteer legal work,
he resisted. "I'm not that kind of a public person," says
Gregory, who still practices law at 82, spending half his time on
pro bono work.
Eventually, his wife talked him into it, and in October, the Indiana
Pro Bono Commission gave Gregory its Randall T. Shepard Excellence
Award. ("I had to go get a haircut," he grumbles good-naturedly.
"I had to go get my Brooks Brothers suit cleaned.")
As his 23 nominating letters make clear, Gregory is the man Bloomington
Hospital and the city's courts and nursing homes call when the elderly
need help getting government benefits, making medical decisions,
or fending off unscrupulous relatives.
"A one-man social agency," wrote one colleague. "Gives
so much and asks so little in return," said another. "As
lawyers, we should all strive to emulate him," wrote a third.
Sometimes Gregory's clients, no longer competent to run their own
affairs, are estranged from friends and family; sometimes he takes
over from families torn by disagreement. Once, he got a protective
order shielding a nursing-home resident from her adult daughter.
The work is not glamorous – Gregory has weathered angry tirades
from senile clients looking for someone to blame, and he has visited
homes filled with shoulder-high piles of hoarded possessions. It
is sad. "I bury more people in a year than most people do in
a lifetime," he says.
The satisfaction, Gregory says, comes from helping people who are
ending their hard-working lives sick, alone, or impoverished.
Gregory has devoted his own life to Bloomington: He grew up there
and, after Princeton, returned to stay. In a 54-year legal career,
he has served as county prosecutor, bank trust officer, and law
firm partner, and he chaired a study commission that brought the
city its first mental-health center.
When the pro bono award came up, his wife, Becky, felt it was time
he got some recognition — and time that Indiana thought about
how to fill his shoes as the huge baby-boom generation ages. "I
wanted the whole community to know what he does," she says.
By Deborah Yaffe
Deborah Yaffe is a writer in Princeton Junction, N.J., and
the author of Other People's Children: The Battle for Justice
and Equality in New Jersey's Schools (Rutgers University Press).