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Fred Gregory '50

Fred Gregory '50 was honored by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission for his volunteer legal work on behalf of elderly clients.

Fred Gregory '50

May 14, 2008:

Fred 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.END

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).