My law partner, Gray Taylor, died unexpectedly this past June. That is he right there.
His lovely bride, Margaret, asked me to give a tribute to him at the Charleston County Bar Association Meeting. Each year, the Bar pays tribute to those members who have died during the year.
It was a privilege and an honor to be chosen to speak in memory of Gray.
I wrote this tribute to him, but, in true Bar fashion, they wanted off the cuff remarks to be recorded.
Here’s what I would have said:
I had the pleasure of practicing law with Gray Taylor for fourteen years. I had the ultimate privilege of calling him my friend from our first day of Law School until the day he died. From August of 1995 to June of 2019, our nearly quarter century of friendship will always be one that I treasure and miss.
Gray and I literally bumped into each other our first day of law school at Carolina. Our lockers were by each other’s. Lockers. So middle school. Just like Law School itself.
We introduced ourselves and then, I said, “Oh, I was supposed to look for you. You married one of the Moss twins. I knew them in Beaufort growing up.” He replied, “Oh, you’re Hamlin.”
Friends ever since
Throughout law school, Gray managed to mix his hobbies into his legal studies. Gray was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to hunt. He loved to fish. He loved to be in the woods. One morning, as we were all going into an insurance class, Gray rolled into class covered in mud. He had gone on an early duck hunt down in Jasper County, bagged a few mallards, and then high tailed it to Columbia to make our mid-morning class. Some classmates gazed in horror at Gray’s camo-clad and mud spattered outfit. Others asked how the hunting went
Gray actually came to law school about a year after working for an engineering firm flagging wetlands which was how he put to use his Masters in Forestry from Clemson. He flagged wetlands on Daniel Island and joked about not wanting to wear snake boots to work every day. As his beloved bride Margaret let me know, ironically, one of the last pictures taken of Gray was of him in snake boots in the woods.
Gray made law school seem easy. He found a fun crowd, of which I include myself, connected deeply with Professor Stephen Spitz about what we all call ‘dirt law’, enjoyed the moot court, and actually had time to build two boats by hand. Gray was always building, tinkering, and working.
Gray went to work with a law firm in Bluffton after law school and his first big case was about deer population control in Sea Pines. He would have gladly hunted the deer himself instead of representing the Property Owners Association.
Gray was also involved in a dispute over residual property ownership in the same development.
His ‘dirt law’ bona fides were long
Ultimately, Gray moved into the development and transactional side of the law, leaving me to run with dirt litigation
Gray was my sounding board, my fellow co-conspirator, and my confessor
He and I were proud of our firm’s work in quieting title to land that last had good title in 1883. He was proud that were were able to clear up ownership of the parcel at Meeting & Huger Streets downtown.
He was not afraid of being controversial as he shepherded the development of a certain parcel in Mount Pleasant that gave rise to an anti-development group that some say changed politics in Mount Pleasant for the last few years.
Gray was proudest of his years of marriage to his beloved Margaret, and his heart burst with pride for his daughters Emma and Eliza
Gray delighted in the accomplishments of all three of them and would brag about them to us…not in a boastful way…but in the way that let us all know that Gray could not believe how he got to be so blessed to have these three women in his life.
Gray and Margaret went to camp together, dated all through college, and were married by the time we got to law school. He worshiped her.
Gray was wild about music! If it was played on the Outlaw Country channel on Sirius XM, it was probably something Gray knew and sang
From the time they were dating to the present, Gray would send mixed tapes, CDS, and playlists to Margaret for Valentine’s Day
Most people didn’t know that side of him
Most people also didn’t know that Gray was wild about his Labradoodle, Hazel, whom he taught to retrieve a ball. But, she was useless on a duck hunt as the ducks were often bigger than she was
In addition to being an outdoorsman, Gray was an adventurous cook, something not everyone knows, but something his girls appreciated and miss
Gray loved our law firm and the people in it
He loved passing out the year end bonuses, arranging boat trips, attending events with those of us lucky enough to work with him
He would sometimes surprise us, such as shooting his nerf gun at us, or performing handstands against a wall in the hallway during his Cross Fit phase
There was not a day in the 14 years we practiced together where we didn’t talk – whether we agreed or disagreed – we knew we could always count on each other and the folks at our firm, Buist, Byars & Taylor
I miss his laugh
I miss his knowing looks
I miss his advice and counsel
I miss him every day