50 and out: Legal assistant helped keep firm humming along

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

For years – 50, in fact, Gloria Taylor was the “glue” that kept a busy law office together.

It was no small task that she faced each day, assisting the likes of some of Pontiac’s most prominent, influential, and skillful lawyers.

When Taylor began work at Hatchett, Brown, Waterman & Campbell in June 1970, she admitted to being a legal neophyte, unaware of the demands of a firm that had a wide-ranging practice in the areas of civil and criminal law.

“It was an eye-opener,” she said during a dinner this week, more than a year after retiring from the Pontiac-based firm that has undergone a number of iterations since it opened its office in 1968. “I learned by doing, and by not repeating mistakes I made when I first began working there.”

Such as misspelling the first name of the firm’s lead partner, Elbert Hatchett, who by that time was establishing himself as one of the finest trial lawyers in the state. 

“I felt so bad about it, but he was patient with me and didn’t get upset,” said Taylor of the legal legend who died in the spring of 2021 at the age of 83 following a battle with ALS. “He was such a pleasure to work for, and was so well respected in Pontiac and the legal community. I learned so much from him.”

One of three daughters, Taylor grew up in Pontiac and attended Pontiac Business Institute after graduating from St. Frederick High School in 1966. Her father, Wilbur, worked in construction, while her now 92-year-old mother, Helen, cleaned houses for a living before beginning a 35-year career in the dietary department at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester.

“I was born in Louisiana and we came to Michigan when I was 5 after my dad got a job with GM,” Taylor related, noting that her father later in his career was among those who worked on the construction of the Pontiac Silverdome.

Now, more than a year after entering the world of retirement, Taylor remembers well getting her “letter of acceptance” in 1970 after interviewing for a job at the law firm that also included partners Chris Brown, William Waterman, and Fletcher Campbell.

“It was a thrill to get that letter and to know that I would be working for such an important law firm,” said Taylor, whose youthful appearance is due in part to being a leap year baby born on February 29, 1948.

Judge Brown, who would leave the law firm in 1972 after being elected to the Pontiac District Court bench, said that Taylor quickly became a “go-to” person at the office.

“It didn’t take long before she was in charge of everything and could do everything,” Brown said of Taylor. “She did pretty much everything that a lawyer could do but go to court. She also adapted quickly to the changes in technology and always did her best to keep the office running smoothly.”

Brown, who retired from his judicial duties in 2014 after spending 31 years on the bench, also paid tribute to Taylor for possessing a kind and generous heart.

“Gloria regularly checks in on Elbert’s widow, making sure she is okay and has everything she needs,” said Brown. “She also takes her out to lunch occasionally and will always be a special friend to her.”

Taylor has been a widow for the past 18 years after her husband, Bernard, died of injuries suffered in a fall from a ladder while tending to some household clean-up duties. The couple was married for 45 years and had two sons, Jeremy, who died several years ago, and Jamel, a 42-year-old resident of Wyoming, Mich. who will be married next month.

“It will be a very happy day,” Taylor said of the upcoming wedding. 

The festive occasion will be in stark contrast to her retirement sendoff, which was decidedly low key and without fanfare.

“I didn’t want anyone to make a fuss over me,” said Taylor, downplaying the significance of her 50-plus years with the law firm. “I was someone who was just doing her job.”




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