The Columns

The Call of the Wild

— by on April 16th, 2015

When an article in the Vineyard Gazette announced that the Hon. H. Gregory Williams, a 1977 graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, was retiring from the Edgartown (Massachusetts) district court, the online responses poured in. One reader wrote, “Herpetologist to English major to judge to wildlife sanctuary volunteer — an excellent career path! Churchill, Auden, Berryman and the World War I poets — great taste! And apparently, a true child of the 60s, still ‘On the Road.’ If Judge Williams finds the time and inclination to pen an autobiography, I’ll buy one. Congratulations, and very best wishes.”

A legal career didn’t seem a very likely choice for an English major, who also did graduate work in 20th-century British literature, but when he couldn’t find a job, he decided to attend law school. Greg spent close to 20 years in private practice in western Massachusetts and three years working in the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. He was appointed to the bench in 1999, serving first in Springfield and later Martha’s Vineyard, in 2005. Off the Vineyard, Greg has presided in Falmouth, Barnstable, Orleans, Plymouth, New Bedford, Wareham, Fall River and that other island court, Nantucket.

While he didn’t have to deal with gang-related activity in Martha’s Vineyard, Greg noted that he had his fair share of DUIs, probation issues and domestic violence. “Throughout other parts of the commonwealth, I run into my colleagues or other people and they think ‘Oh, Martha’s Vineyard, there’s nothing going on there. What is it, a couple of OUI (operating a vehicle under the influence) cases in the summer from tourists,’ that sort of thing.

“I try to educate people that no, the Vineyard’s not immune to all of the problems that everyone faces everywhere,” he said.

Now, however, it will be someone else’s problem. You can find him at the wildlife sanctuary.