The Walls Have Ears—and the Closet Too
Nov. 27, 2015
The Cobb Bar has been populated over the years from numerous proving grounds, including the office of legendary Cobb Solicitor General Herb Rivers. Herb was often unorthodox, both organizationally and in demeanor, yet his mentoring shaped the careers of numerous judges, prosecutors, and long-standing Cobb legal practitioners.
Marietta Mayor Joe Mack Wilson was impressed with Herb's employment practices and Herb's singular emphasis on performance standards, once remarking that “The mandatory secretarial retirement age in Herbie's office is 21.” Herb was an acknowledged CLE pioneer, offering periodic in-house evidentiary seminars of seized videos. And Herb considered misdemeanor prosecution the highest form of litigation art, often emphasizing his maxim, “Felonies are a piece of cake. If you can convince jurors that jaywalkers deserve a particular place in Hell, you're doing some mean lawyering.”
Few had greater access to Herb than his Chief Assistant, Ray Gary, Jr. “Ray Baby” is the scion of Ray Gary, Sr., the South Cobb legal and political juggernaut, and Ray, Jr. continues the family tradition, albeit with the trappings of a lucrative practice. Ray, Jr. agreed to meet with the Cobb Bar News (CBN) and to address an issue of local lore.
CBN: “Many have heard of the cover you provided Herb when he was concerned about meeting with ‘an Atlanta lawyer.' Can you elaborate?”
Gary (closing his alligator Louis Vuitton portmanteau): “You'll excuse me. An indulgence from my last railroad merger. . . Certainly. Back then, when Luther (Hames) and (Howell) Ravan were still on the bench, there a virtual drawbridge at the Chattahoochee and Atlanta lawyers were wise to incorporate local counsel. Herb was wary of meeting in his office with an Atlanta lawyer he didn't know, so Herb asked me to listen in on the meeting. I said ‘Sure,' and pulled up a chair to the table, but Herb admonished, ‘No. I mean in my closet.'”
CBN: “Really? What was your reaction?”
Gary: “This was Herb. He did things his own way. So I had the good sense to put a chair in the closet and settled in. Herb shortly ushered the Atlanta lawyer in, and I saw their feet walk by through the door's louvers. Well, they talked for about an hour, and toward the end I heard Herb's tone change, and I could tell he was getting comfortable with the Atlanta lawyer. So they pulled their chairs out and began walking toward the door, and Herb asked, ‘Have you met my Chief Assistant, Ray Gary, Jr?' and the lawyer replied ‘No,' and so Herb opened up the closet door and gestured toward me.”
CBN: “What did you do in that situation?”
Gary: “What could I do? Acting as if it was standard operating procedure, I sprang up, extended my hand, and said, ‘Ray Gary, Jr. Pleased to meet you.' The Atlanta lawyer was stunned, his jaw practically hit the floor. He probably thought it was something out of Monty Python. He left with a totally bewildered expression.”
CBN: “Well, I'm glad that we cleared that up for posterity.”
Gary: “Oh, it's tip of the iceberg. I've got a million of them. Next time we can talk about baton twirlers, Rosalyn and Peter Whacker, you name it. Rest assured, it'll be done in good taste.”
*Published in Justicia, The Official Cobb Bar Magazine, October 2014