Walter gave a whole new definition to the term "piece of work." He came from a well to do old southern family in Savannah. He had been recruited to play football at UGA, had had an outstanding career on the football field, and after college earned a degree in law. If anyone took Walter for a dumb jock, they were sadly mistaken, he was a very shrewd southern lawyer.
He could charm the fool out of you, drink you under the table, and he was one of the funniest white men I ever knew. But his biggest asset (that often got him in trouble) was his heart of gold.
As you can imagine in a small town, there is not much money to made on your every day wills, trusts, and loan closings practice. Of course, we always had the various criminal trials going on. Invariably, you had your wayward children of wealthy families who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and our firm was happy to dig into Daddy's deep pockets to keep Junior out of prison. And, divorces in our part of the country can be pretty profitable considering how stupid some men can be and the lengths some resourceful scorned women will go to for revenge.
The Partners were always irritated at Walter and said he wasted time and was lazy. In their eyes, instead of working on cases, he spent his time seeing clients, with no money, helping them with piddly things that amounted to nothing. Everyday there would be a line of folks outside Walter's door waiting for an audience. And, once they gained admittance to his smoke filled chamber, he was extremely patient and generous with his time. He would listen to their stories, shake his head and agree with their plight.
Then he would offer some remedy, at which time he would call either his secretary or me into the room, very politely introduce us, explain the issue, and tell us what he wanted us to do to assist the client. We wrote letters to the phone company complaining about annoying phone poles, we called county jails to see if parents could get extended visitation with their incarcerated children, we wrote persuasive letters to GMC requesting that they consider replacing some one's pickup truck because it had thrown a rod after 100,000 miles (and no oil changes). Walter always felt their pain. And, even though we knew our efforts would not be every effective, the fact "Mr." Walter did it was enough to give them comfort. They would leave knowing some one listened, some one cared, and the next client would file in. This would go on all day, day after day.
After the first week, I asked Walter at lunch, why he was so patient with all these clients when he knew they couldn't pay him. He just looked at me and smiled and between deep drags on his cigarette, and said,"They all drive cars."