By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Legal Services NYC-Brooklyn Branch will honor former Project Director John “Chip” Gray at a benefit on Oct. 3.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Gray moved to New York City in 1967 to obtain his Masters of Law at New York University. At NYU, Gray studied under Norman Dorsen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union.
During this year of study, Gray’s curiosity in public interest law was piqued. He served as graduate fellow in the Hays Civil Liberties Law program and quickly began providing litigation assistance in the areas of welfare and education law.
After graduating from NYU in 1968, Gray began working at South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), a branch of Legal Services NYC. In 1970, Gray was offered the opportunity to serve as project director at SBLS.
Although he was not particularly qualified for the position, Gray told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Learning on the job is a large part of lawyer’s job description.”
As project director, Gray was responsible for the management of all aspects of the Legal Services programs, including pending and active litigation, community education and development, and legislative and administrative advocacy.
Under Gray’s leadership, SBLS has grown into one of the nation’s preeminent legal services organizations, providing legal representation to Brooklyn’s diverse low-income population.
It has been able to achieve reform in failing schools, increase accessibility of MTA buses and subway stations for the disabled, and strengthen due-process rights for recipients of government benefits and housing subsidies.
Continuing his commitment civic responsibility, Gray is currently in Philadelphia, helping voters to deal with the state’s new voter ID law.
After 42 years as project director, Gray has no regrets.
“I have been incredibly lucky to do a job I feel terrific about. How any people, especially lawyers, are able to retire with a statement like that?” he asks.