« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »

Kerry Granger: 'Lawyer for the Little Guy' Was Unique

By Marty Keenan
Opinion | May 24, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - In my 25 years of practicing law, the most unforgettable lawyer I ever met was Kerry Granger. A whole collage of words and phrases come to mind: colorful, champion of the little guy, eccentric, idealistic, flew by the seat of his pants, a dreamer.

When Granger was found dead of natural causes in his home Saturday afternoon, the Hutchinson News ran a front page "above the fold" story: "Popular Area Lawyer Found Dead in Home." Most lawyers pass away with little publicity, but, as Arthur Miller once wrote, "attention, attention, must finally be paid to such a man" as Kerry Granger.

Granger was unique in my profession because he didn't care about money. His only goal was to help people, and he would tell them: "Just pay me when you can." Sometimes when a person tried to represent himself in court, Granger would listen to the person stumble and bumble, and then stand up to come to the rescue: "Your Honor, I will represent this man."

Granger died with little or no assets, but his passing is mourned by "the little people" of Central Kansas. He fought for them in court with or without any guarantee of being paid. He was sort of a Mother Teresa with a legal pad, walking around looking for the next person to help. Sometimes "retaining" Granger involved buying him lunch or doing him some small favor.

Outside the municipal courtroom in Hutchinson, Granger would just show up, and lawyerless people would flock to him, ask him for help. For years he was known as "hundred dollar Granger" because a hundred dollar bill would secure his representation on even the most complex of cases. But the "small potatoes" cases in municipal court (e.g., speeding tickets, dog-at-large tickets) he often did for free.

Once, a lawyer saw Granger open his wallet outside the Hutchinson Municipal Court.
In his wallet, there was a strange cardboard divider between a group of small bills, and another group of larger bills. "Why do you segregate your cash with that cardboard thing?" the lawyer asked.

"Oh, the small bills on one side of the divider are mine," he said. The bigger bills on the other side belonged to clients: "My client trust account is on that other side," said Granger.

Lawyers aren't supposed to vouch for a witnesses' credibility, but Granger often threw caution to the wind in arguing for his clients: "Your Honor, I have known Billy Thompson since he was a newborn. And I have known his beloved mother for over 30 years. And there is no finer family in Hutchinson than the Thompsons!"

And his clothing? He was the only lawyer I knew who literally didn't care how he looked. He was sort of like the TV detective "Columbo," stumbling his way into the truth.

But in terms of his idealogy, he reminds me of another lawyer: Atticus Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Granger was like Atticus Finch, but with messed up hair and a bad suit. He was an idealistic liberal in a tough place to be a liberal: Hutchinson, Kansas. Like Atticus Finch, he took on unpopular causes, and really believed in the system of justice in America.

For years he practiced law without a phone or office. He would meet clients at McDonalds or another restaurant to discuss the case. According to the Hutchinson News, judges and clerks who were frustrated about his inaccessibility went on "Granger hunts," which were attempts to get messages to him by third parties.

But the story of the rumpled lawyer, the champion of the little guy, leaves out a major part of Granger's story. He was actually a "Renaissance Man," fascinated by operas, music, books and world travel. His world travels took him to Kosovo, Russia, China, Budapest, The Amazon, Mexico and South Africa. His world travels were so mysterious that some joked that he was an undercover CIA man disguising himself as a small-town lawyer.

And who would have thought of Granger as an aficionado of opera? He attended the Seattle Orchestra's rendition of Wagner's "Circle of Life" in Seattle and enjoyed it thoroughly. The "Circle of Life" is actually four operas in one, comprising Wagner's "Ring Cycle." It is so lengthy (twenty hours) that a substitute orchestra plays the second half, due to the exhaustion of the first orchestra. But Granger sat still throughout the performance, taking it all in.

My favorite story about Granger involves a man from Sterling, Kansas who was vacationing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The tourist was stuck in "Standing Room Only" at an elite opera performance in Santa Fe. He was dressed extremely informally, just glad to get to stand to hear the performance.

The man from Sterling decided to walk up toward the stage briefly just to get a good look at things, and was shocked to see his friend Kerry Granger, sitting on the fourth row, impeccably dressed in a tuxedo. How did Granger get those seats? And why was he dressed in formal wear? Who knows? But Granger was a complicated man, far more complicated than most knew.

His easy manner and rapport with the "little guy"---the butcher, the baker, the policeman on the beat---suggests an easy going guy with little formality. Yet in his conversations with other lawyers and judges, he would use stilted, formal language, like something from Shakespeare. The last time I saw him, I said "Hi, Kerry." "Mr. Keenan," he said. "It's great to see you, and in such fine form, I might add."

He often greeted judges in their chambers with formalistic greetings like: "How are things in the Temple of Justice today?"

I barely knew Granger, but I liked and admired him. Many lawyers seem almost indistinguishable from one another, all wearing dark suits and power ties, carrying their briefcases. But Granger was different. And it was a good kind of different.

Living in conservative rural Kansas, Granger seemed to belong to all the wrong clubs: he was a Democrat, a Unitarian, and a member of the ACLU. But Granger, a graduate of George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C., seemed to relish the role of the outsider, the gadfly.

He was one-of-a-kind in a cookie cutter world. And he was the most unforgettable lawyer I ever met.


Wonderful tribute. Just hope he will serve as inspiration to those "square pegs" who think there is no place for them in Kansas. The TEA Party may be getting the coverage but there are other changes fulminating: Hutchinson has recently become home to chapters of both NOW and Kansas Equality Coalition, generating excitement and hope for the future. Perhaps that long dormant spirit of early Kansas that rejected slavery, embraced sufferage and honored individualists will again prevail.

Outstanding tribute, Marty. Going through life with the prospect meeting this kind of man sort of makes it all worthwhile. Isn't he who we all aspire to be.

Post your own comment here

Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:

About This Page

This page contains just one story published on May 24, 2010. The one written previous to this is titled "Building Community through Radio: New Community Radio Station for Kansas" and the story published right after this one is "Kansas Experts Look at Health Care Reform"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion

Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.