Some believe we’re masters of our destiny, makers of our fate. Others say we get out of life what we put into it, we reap what we sow. Then there’s always the phrase “life is full of choices.”
Is it possible the notion of plotting one’s destiny is just a dream? A beautiful dream – but not reality. Simply put, you cannot make something happen because you wish for it, nor can you always have what you want. If that’s true, no one told Lloyd Murray.
Lloyd became a lawyer in 1977 and began working in Bryan County. He was the quintessential “country lawyer,” an advocate for the common man. He was often able to easily interpret their concerns and express their opinions.
“As an attorney, I have to stand in my client’s shoes, with the factual knowledge of my client, and go to court with my skills as an attorney and win,” Lloyd said. “People hire attorneys to win. One ability I have is to communicate with anybody, regardless of social or economic level. I have been there and done that.”
If Lloyd was destined to become a successful Bryan County lawyer, then his childhood was the perfect preparation.
When Lloyd’s dad sold his farm in Stilson, Ga., he moved his family to Richmond Hill. They settled on a small farm he bought on Clarktown Road. The backyard of the Murray home was teeming with cows, hogs, chickens and dogs.
Lloyd’s parents, Floyd and Wilma, were hard workers. Floyd was a plumber-pipe fitter at Fort Stewart and his mother worked at the sewing factory in Pembroke. They instilled a strong work ethic in their sons, Lloyd and Randy.
When they moved here, Lloyd was in the second grade. As he and his brother matured, their responsibilities on the farm grew. When Lloyd was in high school, he had to get up very early to tend to the animals before the school bus arrived. In the evenings, he had to do it again.
There came a time when their dad knew his sons “got it.” Randy gave his father a book for his birthday on John Deere tractors, with a special story inside the front cover dated Sept. 25, 2003:
“The story is told of a farmer who had a cornfield. This farmer also had two sons who spent many days working in the cornfield while the other boys played. A neighbor asked, ‘Why do you raise so much corn? You have plenty, and your boys spend so much of their time in the cornfield while the other boys play.’ The farmer replied, ‘I’m not raising corn, I’m raising sons.’ I’m glad my father had a cornfield. I hope this book reminds you of what a great father you are.”
After graduating from Richmond Hill High School in 1969, Lloyd entered Middle Georgia College. Shortly afterward, his mother died and he transferred to what was then known as Armstrong State College. He wanted to be close to his dad, his best buddy.
As a young college student, he thought of pursuing a career as an engineer or accountant. It didn’t take long before he knew neither of those professions was suited for him.
Lloyd was intrigued when he heard about the John Marshall Law School in Savannah. The possibility of becoming an attorney captivated him. There was no doubt in his mind one day he would become an attorney. At every opportunity, he would go to court and observe the proceedings. But he didn’t have many occasions to do that in Bryan County.
“We had very little court in Pembroke, maybe twice a year,” he recalled. “I would go to Savannah where they had court all the time. Occasionally, I would go to Hinesville, but they had very little court going on there either.”
After attending law school for two-and-a-half years, including summers, Lloyd graduated from John Marshall Law School. It was June 1977 and Lloyd was only 24 years old.
Bryan County Judge John Harvey made a deep impression on Lloyd in the 1970s. While Lloyd was still in law school, Judge Harvey asked him to commit to a two-year assignment as his law clerk. Lloyd accepted, and the die was cast. The destiny he plotted was unfolding.
He was Judge Harvey’s clerk from March 1977 to June 1977. The state grant for legal aides ran out, and his job as law clerk ended. Lloyd passed the bar exam in July 1977 and was sworn in and licensed that September. As fate would have it, Judge Harvey knew of an empty office in Pembroke and told Lloyd about it.
On Jan. 1, 1978, Lloyd opened his first law office – alone. Rene Kemp and Tom Ratcliffe had originally rented the office and furnished it completely. Rene, who is now deceased, told Lloyd he could pay for the furniture when he made some money.
“Rene never asked me to pay for the furniture,” Lloyd said with his big grin. “And I didn’t.”
When Lloyd talked about opening his first office, he revealed a glimpse of his personal life.
“When I opened my office, I had to buy a suit because I had never owned one,” he said. “Billie and I went to a shopping center on Hwy. 80 and bought three for a $100 – with a vest.”
Lloyd opened his current office in Richmond Hill April 1, 2001. Billie and Lloyd have been married 35 years and have two children, L.D. and Savannah.
Lloyd’s childhood and education are major factors in his success. But there were others, too. When I asked what they were, Lloyd responded without hesitation and in the softest voice I’ve ever heard him use.
“Probably having the best mother a kid could have,” he said.
From a small green box in his office, he removed a worn envelope postmarked March 13, 1970.
“My mother died Sept. 17, 1970, from stomach cancer,” Lloyd said speaking barely above a whisper and seeming more like a young boy than a confident, savvy attorney. “She was 39 years old and I was a freshman at Middle Georgia. Every time I get to feeling bad, I take this letter out and read it.”
When he began slowly reading the letter aloud, Billie pushed her chair back and stood up.
“I have to leave. I’ve heard it read many times, yet I still cry,” she whispered to me as she left the room.
Lloyd turned to me after he finished and asked if I would like a copy. I was overwhelmed. All I could say was, “I would never have asked.”
With Lloyd’s approval, I share his mother’s letter:
“Baby, we are sending you $5. I know it isn’t much, but if you stop and think, it has taken a lot of money for doctor bills this year. Maybe it won’t be like this always.
We must always remember that we are poor people and, except by the grace of God, we are able to do what we do.
“Oh! Lloyd, if only you could see how God has kept us and provided for us, and especially you. You know right now we don’t have your fee for next quarter, but you watch and see how God will make a way. Not Daddy, not Mother, but God.
“Please don’t forget to thank God and show your thanks by doing what you know God would have you do. Don’t let these worldly things keep you from doing this.
“You know it isn’t so important as you might think to be popular with people. Everyone wants to be liked by everyone, but Lloyd, wouldn’t it be better to be a Doorkeeper in Heaven than a Star in Hell?
“Lloyd, you know the reason Mother is telling you these things is because I love you so much. I want what’s best for you and to be proud of you. I want you to make good in school and become a Christian young man. If I knew right now that you and Randy would grow up to that standard, I would be ready to die. I know it is possible, I have the faith and if you and Randy do your part I know God will do his.
“Be careful driving home and take care of yourself. Be Mother’s Big Boy and see you Tuesday.
“P.S. I haven’t gone back to work yet. I am still mighty weak. Maybe by Monday I can go.”
As Billie entered the room, Lloyd looked at her tenderly and smiled.
“If it weren’t for Billie, I wouldn’t be here. My Mother raised me, and Billie took care of me after that.”
Success has not changed Lloyd or where he prefers to live.
“He’s been all over the world and never has he considered moving from Richmond Hill,” Billie said.
“Because anywhere else would be too far from home,” Lloyd said with a chuckle. “Bryan County is a phenomenal place.”
Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.