Richest BusinessLawyers
Net Worth:
$50 Million
Jul 12, 1947 (76 years old)
United States of America
💰 Compare Willie E. Gary's Net Worth

What Is Willie E. Gary's Net Worth?

Willie E. Gary is an American attorney, motivational speaker, and businessman who has a net worth of $50 million. Born into a family of dirt poor southern share-croppers, Willie E. Gary eventually grew to be one of the richest lawyers in the world. Willie E. Gary opened the first Black law firm in Martin County, Florida. Today he is known for having won more than 150 cases that have resulted multi-million dollar settlements, including one case alone that resulted in a $500 million judgement. Today is the the senior partner at West Palm Beach, Florida-based Gary Law Group.

Willie E. Gary has appeared on various talk shows and news programs, and he was featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Willie was included on "Ebony" magazine's 2002 "100 Most Influential Black Americans" list, and he was featured on "Forbes" magazine's "Top 50 attorneys in the U.S." list. He is a senior partner at The Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson, Gary & Gillespie, P.L.L.C., which includes "37 attorneys, a team of paralegals and a professional staff of over 100." Willie is a member of the American Bar Association, National Bar Association, American Association for Justice, NAACP, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and Million Dollar Verdict Club. Gary has earned the nickname "The Giant Killer" due to his reputation for "taking down some of America's most well- known corporate giants on behalf of his clients."

On October 13, 2023 a movie about Willie E. Gary titled "The Burial" debuted on Amazon Prime. The film, which features Jamie Foxx as Willie, tells the story of his lawsuit against a large funeral home corporation called the Loewen Group. This is the lawsuit that resulted in a $500 million judgment being won by Gary, on behalf of his client, a small funeral home owned named Jeremiah Joseph O'Keefe.

Early Life

Willie E. Gary was born Willie Edward Gary on July 12, 1947, in Eastman, Georgia. His parents, Turner and Mary, were sharecroppers. Willie has 10 siblings, and his twin died during their birth. Gary's parents later became migrant farmers, and the family sometimes slept in tents on farmers' properties because they didn't have a permanent home. The family settled in Indiantown, Florida, when Willie was 13 years old, and he started a lawn service to help support them. Gary was a member of his high school's football team, and he earned a scholarship to North Carolina's Shaw University. After graduating from Shaw, he earned a Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Contingency Lawsuits and Financial Issues

After earning his law degree, Willie began looking for a job. He became a member of the Florida Bar in 1974, and none of the law firms he approached would hire Black lawyers, so he started his own law firm. He won a $250,000 settlement in his first case, and he became one of the most successful attorneys in Florida and didn't lose a single case in seven years.

His practice eventually grew into The Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson, Gary & Gillespie, P.L.L.C., with more than 30 attorneys and three Florida offices. The law firm specializes in personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability, and class action lawsuits as well as international and commercial litigation. The firm takes most of its cases on contingency, which typically means it is not paid a dime unless and until it wins a judgement. Then it is entitled to perhaps as much as 50% of the judgment, or maybe as low as 30%.

To finance his very expensive operations, Gary's firm (like many many other contingency-focused firms) uses loans and lines of credit from financial firms that specialize in funding contingency law firms. For example LawFinance Group. In 2012 Gary and his firm were sued by LawFinance over a $10 million high-interest loan made to the firm. LawFinance claimed that Gary and his senior partners personally guaranteed the loan.

In April 2013 the Martin County Sheriff's office (the county where Willie lived at the time) seized $3.2 million worth of personal property from his mansion in a town called Sewall Point (which we describe more at the end of this article… with a video!). The civil seizure was the result of a lawsuit brought by a Louisiana bank called IberiaBank which alleged that Gary and his wife Gloria owed $3.3 million in unpaid loans related to three properties in Fort Pierce, Florida. Speaking after the seizure, Gary told a local newspaper: "We have been living through tough times but it has all been settled. Not one piece of furniture was removed from the home."

Gary would later explain that in the 1990s he paid $900,000 for three connected lots which he planned to develop. At some point years later he took out a loan against the properties at a time when the market valued them at $4-5 million. Speaking to a reporter in the aftermath of the seizure, Gary explained: "The money went into my cable television network, the Black Family Channel. I was hoping the Black Family Channel would go big, but it didn't. It backfired on me." The Black Family Channel was eventually absorbed by the Gospel Music Channel and Gary became a minority owner of the combined business.

When he was asked how such a rich man could fail to pay back loans, Gary said:

"Call Donald Trump."

Notable Cases

In 2002 Willie won a $240 million verdict when he represented All Pro Sports against Disney after All Pro Sports accused the company of stealing the idea for the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

In 2005 Gary got Anheuser-Busch to agree to pay the family of baseball legend Roger Maris $120 million to settle a defamation case.

Gary won $23 billion in a case against the  R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company due to the 1996 death of Florida's Michael Johnson from lung cancer, but the verdict was overturned in 2019 after the company's attorneys appealed the ruling.

The Gary family also owns a real estate management company called Gary Enterprises, and his oldest son, Kenneth, is the CEO and president of the company. Willie's son Sekou is a partner at his law firm. Willie has been featured in publications such as "The Chicago Tribune," "The New York Times," "Jet," "Black Enterprise," "The New Yorker," "People," and "The National Law Journal." Gary is also an in-demand motivational speaker and has given speeches at law schools, churches, universities, and chambers of commerce throughout the U.S.

$500 million Judgement

In 1995, Willie filed a lawsuit on Jeremiah Joseph O'Keefe's behalf after he alleged that businessman Raymond Loewen had reneged on a contract with O'Keefe.

Gary ultimately won a $500 million settlement for the World War II veteran/funeral home operator. Upon later appeals and trials the case was settled for $175 million, and Loewen eventually resigned from his firm.

In 2022, it was announced that Jamie Foxx would be producing a film about the case for Amazon Prime Video and starring as Willie and Tommy Lee Jones as Jeremiah O'Keefe. That film, "The Burial," debuted in October 2023.

Willie E. Gary

Stephen Boitano/Getty Images

Personal Life

Willie married Gloria Royal, his childhood sweetheart, when he was a sophomore in college. They eventually welcomed five children together. According to his bio on the website for The Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson, Gary & Gillespie, P.L.L.C…

"Gary often travels on his 32 passenger, custom designed Boeing 737, which carries a full flight crew and is appropriately named 'Wings of Justice II.'"

The website also states that he and Gloria established The Gary Foundation in 1994, and that the foundation "provides scholarships, direction and other resources to youth, so they can realize their dreams of achieving a higher education." Their sons Kenneth and Ali serve as president and vice president, respectively, of The Gary Foundation, and Kenneth is also the CEO. In 1991, Willie donated more than $10 million to Shaw University, his alma mater. Gary has donated millions to numerous Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well.

In 1995 Willie was featured on an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous":

Awards and Honors

In 1999, Willie received the Horatio Alger Award, which is given to individuals who represent "perseverance, integrity and a commitment to excellence." In 2004, the South Carolina General Assembly adopted Bill 5050 "to recognize and honor Willie E. Gary, one of the nation's most respected and accomplished lawyers, for his outstanding contributions to his community and to the nation and to extend best wishes to him in all of his future endeavors." In 2019, Gary was honored with the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence award.

Private Jets

Gary is often photographed in ads for his law firm standing in front of his 32-passenger private jet, a Boeing 737-200 jet called "Wings of Justice II." The firm's first plane is a Gulfstream II called "The Wings of Justice."

Wings of Justice II was manufactured in 1981. It was in the fleet of Malaysian Airlines from 1981 to 1987, then Panamanian Copa Airlines. Willie appears to have acquired the plane in July 2003. Upon acquisition he reportedly spent $11 million on renovations. These renovations included a $1.2 million sound system, full-service kitchen, several bedrooms and an 18-karat gold sink.

In 2012 Willie and his law firm were sued by General Electric Capital over allegations that the firm had defaulted on a loan the financed the plane's renovation.

In 2009 "Wings of Justice II" was used in a music video from the rapper T.I. for his song "You Know What It Is ft. Wyclef". You can see the interior and exterior pretty clearly in the first minute of the music video and towards the end there's a shot of T.I sitting in the pilot's seat and Wyclef in the first officer's chair:

Florida Mansion

In 1992 Willie and Gloria paid an undisclosed amount for a waterfront property in Sewalls Point, Florida. They proceeded to custom build a 14,500 square foot ornate mansion with 8 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. They sold this home in May 2022 for $5.225 million. Here is a video tour:

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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