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Raymond Grier: A Life In Law, Inspired By Greatness

When asked about the origins of his successful career, veteran SEPTA Lawyer Raymond Grier spreads the credit around.

The examples set by role models - a list that ranges from his father to Martin Luther King, Jr. -played a major role. A top-notch education was crucial, as were his experiences, including a life-shaping opportunity that came after he finished his freshman year at South Carolina State University.

While most students look forward to a break in studies during their first college summer, Grier pressed ahead with hard work. He served as an intern at the law offices of attorney Julius Chambers - one of the nation's most prominent civil rights attorneys. Chambers has been involved in a number of high-profile civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Among them: 1971's Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education in 1971, which resulted in a landmark school busing decision.

Grier had always excelled in the classroom, but as most might assume, that alone probably wouldn't be enough for a young student to land this type of coveted internship. Grier agrees, and happily discusses the "connection" that put him in Chambers office. "I met him on the golf course," Grier said. "I'm a golfer, he's a golfer. We started talking one day, and that eventually led to the internship."

Despite being in the office of an extraordinary attorney, Grier's duties were very ordinary. He filed paperwork, made copies, ran errands - basic intern-type duties. And when your boss is a busy, nationally renowned figure, there isn't a whole lot of time for one-on-one interaction.

But the experience was invaluable. Grier said he soaked in everything he could about the legal profession during his internship. And while his face-time with Chambers was limited, it was enough to make a lasting impression.

"It's why I decided to become a lawyer," Grier said. "I was very interested in the law before that, and I was probably leaning in that direction, but after the internship, there was no question this was what I what I wanted to do with my life."

"It was more than just wanting to be lawyer because you can have a good career," Grier added. "Being around Julius - just seeing how he carried himself, his knowledge of the law, the esteem in which he was held - that was an incredible learning experience for me. I knew I wanted to follow in those footsteps."

So the goal was clear, but getting there was still a major challenge. First up: three more years of undergraduate work at South Carolina State, which Grier tackled with his usual high-level of classroom achievement. After graduation, Grier worked briefly as a school teacher, but never abandoned his goal. Before long, he was back on the student side of the classroom at Howard University Law School. Grier relocated to the Philadelphia area after graduating, and a short time later, joined SEPTA's Legal Division, focusing on civil litigation. He is in his second decade as a  as senior trial counsel at the Authority.

"We're kind of SEPTA's defenders - we're representing SEPTA in many different types of litigation," Grier said. "It has been a very rewarding experience, and I'm looking forward to many more years."

Grier's responsibilities include examining legal claims filed against SEPTA, researching the law, and using his experience and expertise to resolve these claims after they are placed into litigation.

And even as an accomplished lawyer, Grier said he still looks at the examples set by his role models - both in his professional and personal life - for inspiration. Among them: his father, Plato D. Grier, Sr.; Julius Chambers, with whom he has developed a close relationship following his internship; Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court; and his uncle, Charlie Scott, who was the first African American NASCAR Driver.

"I am inspired by so many African Americans, known and unknown, who have made sacrifices - often the ultimate sacrifice," Grier said. "They acted selflessly, sacrificing so much of themselves, so that generations that followed could have more opportunities for upward mobility."

Raymond Grier

Grier in his SEPTA office.

Grier is a veteran attorney in SEPTA's Legal Division.

Grier hard at work in his office.