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The Honorable Roger L. Gregory

Judge Roger L. Gregory was born on July 17, 1953 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but raised in Petersburg, Virginia. He graduated from Petersburg High School in 1971, and enrolled at Virginia State University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1975, and earned his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1978.

In 1978, Gregory became the first African American attorney at the law firm of Butzel, Long, Gust, Klein & Van Zile in Detroit. In 1980, he joined the Richmond law firm of Hunton & Williams LLP. Gregory was nominated by President Bill Clinton to be the first African American judge on the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but the Senate refused to hold Gregory’s confirmation hearing. He was then nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2001. In 2014, he joined the majority opinion on Bostic v. Schaefer, which overturned Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Also that year, Gregory authored the court’s unanimous opinion on King v. Burwell, which upheld tax subsidies for health insurance purchased on federal exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. In 2016, Gregory became the first African American chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Gregory has served on numerous boards, including: Richmond Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Richmond Arts Council, Virginia State University Foundation, Richmond Bar Association, and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. He served as president of the Friends Association for Children and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Gregory was chairman of the Industrial Development Authority of Richmond and the executive committee of Richmond Renaissance. Gregory also sat on the board of ChildFund International and served on the board of the Virginia Historical Society.
He serves as trustee emeritus on the Board of Trustees at the University of Richmond. He serves on the Junior Board of Directors of the John Marshall Foundation. He is a member of the American Bar Association and was keynote speaker for the opening assembly at the 2005 ABA annual meeting in Chicago. He is a member of the National Bar Association and the Old Dominion Bar Association of which Gregory is a past president. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and Virginia.

He was the recipient of many awards, including the 1997 National Conference of Christians and Jews Humanitarian Award. He was featured in Ebony magazine as one of the “56 Most Intriguing Blacks of 2001.” In 2002, he received the Pioneer Visionary Award from the National Black Student Leadership Development Conference. In 2003, Judge Gregory received the Dominion Resources Strong Men and Women: Excellence in Leadership Award. Gregory was also awarded the Old Dominion Bar Association’s L. Douglas Wilder Vangard Award. He was also awarded the National Bar Association’s Gertrude E. Rush and Equal Justice Awards, and the Thurgood Marshall Award of Excellence. In 2015, he received the Washington Bar Association’s Charles Hamilton Houston Merit Medallion.

Roger L. Gregory was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 9, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.102

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/9/2016

Last Name

Gregory

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

Virginia Avenue Elementary School

Peabody High School

Petersburg High School

Virginia State University

University of Michigan Law School

First Name

Roger

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

GRE16

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

Is The Currency Reason Or Power?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

7/17/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Richmond

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Judge Roger L. Gregory (1953 - ) was appointed to serve as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 2001, becoming the first African American chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 2016.

Employment

United States Court of Appeals

Wilder, Gregory & Associates

Hunton & Williams

Butzel, Long, Gust, Klein & Van Zile

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Roger L. Gregory's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his father's career as a gospel singer

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his adoption

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers growing up in the Heights of Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about the events of the Civil War in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls the civil rights history of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers growing up in the Heights of Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers Virginia Avenue Elementary School in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his early exposure to the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes the history of Peabody High School in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his activities at Peabody High School in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about the famous residents of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers his teachers at Peabody High School in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his experiences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his transition to the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his experiences at the University of Michigan Law School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his internships during law school

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his start as a litigator

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers his undergraduate courses with L. Douglas Wilder

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his transition to Hunton and Williams LLP

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his first marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his cases at Hunton and Williams LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about the law firm of Wilder and Gregory

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about L. Douglas Wilder's political career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers presiding over United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his citations in U.S. Supreme Court opinions

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his involvement in theater

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about the public opinion of lawyers

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers Oliver W. Hill and Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his decision of Bostic v. Schaefer

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his views on police brutality, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his views on police brutality, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory shares his advice for improving the criminal justice system

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his judicial philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his opinion on King v. Burwell

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory remembers the death of his first wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his appointment as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about his children

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Roger L. Gregory narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$10

DATitle
The Honorable Roger L. Gregory talks about the law firm of Wilder and Gregory
The Honorable Roger L. Gregory recalls his decision of Bostic v. Schaefer
Transcript
When you joined Douglas Wilder [HistoryMaker L. Douglas Wilder], he, was he just by myself?$$Yeah, he was by himself, yeah he was by, he had been sharing office in the same building with somebody. He was by himself, he had--1982, when he came and formed together, formed the firm of Wilder and Gregory in 1982, yeah.$$Yeah, so he was operating in the old style--black lawyer--$$Yeah, the old style, yeah he had his--$$Always had to have his shingle up.$$That's right.$$People would come see him, talking about my boy's in trouble, see if you can help him and--$$Exactly.$$Or, you know, insurance company's trying to cheat me, see if you can help me, you know, all that kind of stuff.$$Oh, that's right, that's the kind of price we had and--$$Yeah.$$I love it, you know, people--you had to really produce. It wasn't about the--you couldn't just read your resume (unclear), "Well, I went to the University of Michigan Law School [Ann Arbor, Michigan] and I worked for Hunton and Williams [Hunton and Williams LLP, Richmond, Virginia] and Butzel Long [Butzel, Long, Gust, Klein and Van Zile; Butzel Long]." Yeah, okay but can you handle this matter. I love that, and you had to produce and you had to really show what you could do. So it was, it was, it was good. And Governor Wilder, he was--then senator, he was awesome trial lawyer. I--his timing and just quick mind, I learned--we used to tried cases together, he was just awesome.$$Okay, all right. So he brings you in as a partner. And what was your plan? What was, what was Doug Wilder's plan--$$Well--$$--for you to be part of his--what were you going to work on?$$Well, you know, you know, he was in the Senate [Senate of Virginia] then, and the whole idea was, you know, he had some idea of what value I could bring to the table. And then fortunately he trusted that I could help build upon and (unclear)--institutionalize it for the first time. I think it helped him to see what he might have be able to do beyond just as an individual lawyer but a firm, an institution. And we did, the two of us practiced and then we had hired an associate. And we built up and when we finished, we had eleven lawyers and we did bond work and all kinds of work. So we grew and took that opportunity but we still did the core things, like you talk about when, you know, the mom and dad and junior's in trouble or we need this. We were the firm that could answer those needs and do it at the highest level. And then we--only difference was in our view, was we're just smaller. But we didn't take a back seat to anybody in terms of confidence and ability and that's what I learned from him and that confidence and competence, yeah.$$Um-hm, okay. So he was in the state senate even then (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) He was in the state senate and he would--$$Yeah.$$--at the end of the day, I loved that we would come back and he would talk about the day. And the senate floor and the politics and his, and just his comprehensive knowledge, he's the quintessential statesman. Not only a politician but a statesman, in terms of understanding the needs of people and addressing what really makes the difference and how to make the political process work for the better good. The common weal, as they say it, and the commonwealth. And that's what he, he dedicated his public service to it. And a, had a high sense of duty and public service, modeled by him.$$Okay, all right. So now did you help in his campaigns when--$$No, I helped by this, that I always say that I want to make sure that my priority was that I do nothing to dishonor and hurt his opportunity. So my job was to keep the home front going, matter of fact, when he ran for lieutenant governor, his headquarters was in our law firm. So I lived and breathed it every day. So, but, no, you know, and my job was to keep the firm going. And he was--as lieutenant governor, you know, he would, he could still practice law, so his mind was, he was right on target, he knew what was going on, he tried cases, so it was a wonderful partnership. And, you know, and we never signed a document, it was by handshake and understanding, yeah. Now it's been unheard of to be able to do something like that. But that's the kind of ilk of a, of person that he was and still is.$$Okay, okay. So for--before your first appointment as judge, you like, you were working with Douglas Wilder for--$$Oh, yeah, it was from--$$--basically (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) from 1982 all the way up to 19--well, 2000--$$--to 2001, that's like twe- twenty years.$$To 2000, yeah. Long, yeah, it's a long--$$You had a twenty years so--$$Long time.$$--so what are the cases, some of the cases that you all dealt with that you dealt with--$$Oh, yeah, well, we--$$--during that period of time (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) We dealt with a lot of (makes sound)--I tried murder cases, double homicide cases. We--I did--and what we did was, we can, we be--we're fortunate to be an American Bar Association demonstration project. People like [HistoryMaker] Dennis Archer, who's the first black president of the American Bar and then Robert Grey [Robert J. Grey, Jr.], who's the second black, they helped us get into that. And we could show it so we started getting corporate clients nationally. So we did work for Ford Motor Company and did some work for General Motors [General Motors Corporation; General Motors Company] and other, and, so we did defense work for insurance companies so we broadened our footprint. But we still did the old school criminal defense work too. And we did bond work, so I loved it, it was a great pra- we had eleven lawyers. (Mumbles) one of the largest African American owned, at the time, firms in Virginia. And it was wonderful, some bright lawyers we got people who worked at the firm who are now judges. And I'm so proud that it wasn't--and that's where the point about institutionalizing. The firm is still in existence, it's called Harrell and Chambliss [Harrell and Chambliss LLP]. But that's the firm and so proud that that's still going on. It wasn't just--'cause, you know, success is seized having a plan of succession and them taking the ball running and gone further on, and I'm very proud of them so, yeah we were able to, thank God, to do something that was significant and still goes on as a legacy.$So we talked about Bostic versus Schaefer [Bostic v. Schaefer, 2014], right?$$Um-hm.$$The same sex marriage--$$(Nods head).$$But was there a lot of, you know, it's been said that the black church is one of the most unprogressive on this subject of any of the institutions in the black community. And it's probably a place where you're going to, you're going to visibly see a lot of gay people doing things in the church.$$Well, you know, yeah, you know, yeah it's--as a judge, you know, I (laughter), I don't really get to com- comment on that but, you know, I think, you know--$$Okay.$$--preachers that have their, have your faith in what there is. But, you know, as the, as the law in construing it, I mean I found the case to be not very compliment, not very complicated on the law after Lawrence [Lawrence v. Texas, 2003], when the [U.S.] Supreme Court said that matters of sexual encounters and intimacies among consenting adults can't be banned, so once that, 'cause that--I thought it was the moral traditions was the longest and strongest issue that states said, "We can ban it." But once that's no longer the case it came to be dis- discrimination in terms of how could that be legally deprived by based on who they loved. So from a legal standpoint, but I think people have very strong religious and moral views about it which, you know, because--and I remember sitting in my office before the argument, I could hear people chanting on one side versus the other. But I thought how wonderful it is to live in a country where people can voice their views one way or the other but, yet in an ordered fashion. I'd be going in a few minutes in a court of law and deciding the case and in an ordered fashion, and not being disturbed by the slogans of the time or whatever but by being drawn to what the law--and interpret it as best you could--the [U.S.] Constitution. So, you know, it's--it does speak to freedom of ideas and thought, but the law had prevailed, so it was quite a moment (unclear) cases.$$Okay. Is it, is there ever a time when you feel that the sacred and the secular are clashing too much or there's a--$$No.$$--there's a--$$I don't think and I think we all comes with our backgrounds and construct, you know, you know the--I'm a Christian and I, yeah and I have very strong faith and also, not but, and also I'm a, I'm a judge. And if it comes to the point there's anything that my view in that regard is so overwhelming that it surmounts my interpretation (unclear) of the law, then I shouldn't sit and cannot sit on that. 'Cause you take an oath to be impartial and that's what the job is. Like I have death cases, but my personal views of the death penalty is of no moment, the question is was there constitutional error. And if it was, then the writ should be granted, you know. And, but if isn't then, the writ is not, you know. So, you know, it's looking at the law but certainly, you know, you wear the hat as a human being, and I got three daughters, I'm a father and a husband. It's like everybody else but it's that the obligation to look at the law and judge it fairly. That's why justice is blindfolded because she's saying that I'm not looking at who's before me, where they're from, their ethnicity or gender or whatever. But I'm only interested in what is the weight of the evidence. And the side that wins the one under the law and the facts have the weight of the evidence and the preponderance of the standard and that's who prevails. But not who I visually see and connect with or would want it to be in my personal view.