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November 23, 1985
One man's fall -- Harvard to the gutter

by Bill Reel
GARY GRADUATED from Harvard in 1979, but he didn't attend the Harvard-Yale game yesterday. When last seen early this month, he was trudging along Fifth Ave. with his head down, foraging for food in garbage baskets, his rear-end falling out of ripped pants, his feet flopping in shoes several sizes too big. Gary looked not at all like a lawyer, although he greaduated from Columbia Law School in 1982.

Only a decade ago, Gary was named Youth of the Year in his native Alabama. He ranked third in his high school senior class of 429. Fellow students voted him "most intellectual."

He majored in government at Harvard. His picture once appeared on the front page of The Harvard Crimson in a story headlined "Harvard-Radcliffe Gifts to NAACP Increase." The story told how Gary had responded to a national NAACP fund drive by organizing undergraduates to contribute.

Wearing a suit, a striped necktie and a big smile, Gary, who is black, was shown in a photo in his hometown paper with then-U.S. Sen. Donald Stewart in the summer of '79. Gary spent that summer researching foreign policy and defense issues as an intern in the senator's Washington office.

Though almost obsessively career conscious, Gary found time at Columbia for a girl friend -- a bright young woman with a lovely smile from Long Island. She had taken a leave of absence from college in Massachusetts to work in Manhattan. The mutual friend who introduced them told her, "Gary will be at least a governor some day." Gary took her to movies and Chinese restaurants on upper Broadway. They bought the Sunday papers on Saturday nights and read and talked. Gary's favorite subject was politics. His heroes included men named Carter and Cuomo.

Gary worked summers as a law clerk for a prominent Alabama federal judge. He was hired by a prestigious Miami firm in 1982 at a salary of $42,000 a year. He lived in an apartment overlooking Biscayne Bay in the fashionable Brickell section of Miami. He put in long hours at the firm. Perhaps because of that, he didn't spend enough time preparing for the bar exam. He flunked it in the spring of '84.

He had never known failure before. It overwhelmed him. He resigned from the law firm and spent days alone in his apartment. He left Miami early this year and went to Wilmington, Del., where he stayed with relatives. He said he was looking for a job, but he walked the streets aimlessly. In May, he came to New York. He was broke. He had no place to live.

His former girl friend, who still cares for him, saw Gary on Fifth Ave. in midtown one day not long ago. She remembered him as tall and slightly overweight, but now he was stooped and gaunt. He moved very slowly, as though each step was a huge effort of will. His torn slacks, held together by staples, left him exposed. He was filthy. He smelled. Passersby, revolted, gave him lots of room.

Heartbroken, his former girl friend approached him. "I love you. Please come with me," she pleaded. She wanted to get help. She called the police. Gary informed them he was a lawyer, knew his rights and wanted to be left alone. He wandered off toward Central Park, where he sleeps.

HIS FORMER girl friend and his mother desperately want to help Gary. They want to protect his name and reputation, asking that he be referred to in print as "Gary Doe." Last week they asked George McDonald of the Coalition for the Homeless to call attention to his plight.

We dispatch cops to rescue deranged people who climb the Brooklyn Bridge to jump off. Gary, one of 20,000 or so homeless folks on our streets as Thanksgiving approaches, is committing suicide as surely as any jumper. Yet society does nothing to save him from himself.

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