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Who is The Real Willie E. Gary Depicted In 'The Burial'?


The Burial's Jamie Foxx, Willie E. Gary and his wife

Jamie Foxx’s latest film character Willie E. Gary in the new Amazon Prime movie The Burial isn’t a fictional character, but one of the most successful Black lawyers of the 20th century.


In the film, Gary helped funeral business owner Jeremiah O’Keefe win a $500 million lawsuit against Loewen Funeral Corporation. The film only shows a snippet of Gary’s life and career, which has included numerous successes.


The 76-year-old Gary was born in Eastman, Georgia, and attended the HBCU Shaw University on a football scholarship. Later on in life, he received his law degree from North Carolina Central University. He then went on to establish the law firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson & Gary, which helped win cases in personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability, and class action lawsuits. O Keefe’s case was different, however, and out of the norm of which type of cases his firm was handling at the time.


Aside from O Keefe’s case, Gary received mainstream attention for being mentioned in law partner Robert V. Parenti’s book The Giant Killers: Taking on America's Largest Corporations, as well as being interviewed on 60 Minutes and featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.


Other cases besides the Loewen-O'Keefe battle that Gary had successfully won are Walt Disney v. All Pro Sports 2000, in which two businessmen sued Walt Disney over claims that the corporation stole their idea for their ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando in which a $240 million settlement was reached, Anheuser-Busch v. Maris Distributing in which the beer company paid the family of baseball legend Roger Maris $120 million in a defamation case and SPS Technologies v. Motorola in which Motorola paid Gary and other lawyers $22.9 million over a trade secrets case which ended in a mistrial.

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Catherine Barrett
Catherine Barrett
Oct 30, 2023

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