Part II



Ah, yes, the gift of rejection.  By the time I was nineteen I finally met a pretty girl who thought I was wonderful.  What she saw in me I have yet to discover. Perhaps it was that I thought she was quite wonderful too.  But there was something else there. There always is – the need to be respected, to be accepted — even loved.  Underneath all the noise and panting and craziness of first loves  there is often something that is trying to be born, that is struggling in the pain of birth.  I suspect that was true with me.  She must have understood that.  I have written about that phenomenon in a book called, “The Making of a Country Lawyer.

I entered law school and graduated magnum cum laude which was only the result of being afraid I would fail and be kicked out.  I didn’t have enough money to rent a cap and gown so I never attended the graduation ceremonies.  I was married to that wonderful girl with our first child.

Then I became the first honor graduate in the history of the law school to fail the bar.  A lawyer up north in Worland, Wyoming had offered me free office space and he would send me the leavings of his practice.  You know – the divorces in cases without much of a fee, and he would send me the fender-bender automobile accident cases.  I was excited, delighted, ecstatic.  But the offer was withdrawn when I failed the bar.

When I passed the bar the second try I finally got a job for $200 a month in the small town of Riverton, Wyoming.  I have written about that on this blog recently.  I lost that job when my employer became the local judge.   I had to get another job.  I’ll admit: after a grueling door to door campaign for prosecutor that took me to the Indian reservation “teepee-tapping,” and after having knocked on every door in a county nearly as big as some of our smaller states, I was, at twenty-four, elected the youngest county attorney in the history of the state.  But my successes as a politician ended there.

After two terms as prosecutors I wanted to go to Washington.   I ran as a Republican.  We have all sinned.  Democrats were suspected Commies in those days.  I ran against William Henry Harrison (the President’s grandson) in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s only seat in Congress,

My campaign slogan was, “Let’s be heard in Washington.”  My opponent had been in Congress for years and wasn’t a ranking member of even the least important of the many committees of Congress.  I discovered that the people of Wyoming simply didn’t want to be heard.  They wanted to be left alone.  Even though I knocked on most of the doors in this sprawling state my defeat was massive and absolute.  I did carry one precinct, namely, Bill, Wyoming.  Three votes.  Somehow I managed to get two of them.

I, an utterly provincial country boy, was desperately trying to escape the provincial town of Riverton.  I had four kids by this time, and by this time I had represented insurance companies, and also held the record for the largest personal injury verdicts for ordinary people in the state.  Moreover, I’d been a prosecutor.

So I argued to the Wyoming law school dean that I could teach law students all about trial work.  I was rejected out of hand.  No way.  The dean wanted some young pointy head out of a big law school who had been in a big firm for a year or two.  That would add to the standing of U.W. Law School.  We do not want you.

Then maybe I could become a judge.  I asked my Republican pal, Stan Hathaway, then the governor, to appoint me to a vacancy that had just arisen in my county.  He called me to his office in Cheyenne, there to show me a pile of letters he’d received from his Riverton constituents who were more than mildly opposing any such appointment.  He turned me down.  So, soundly rejected, I quit the law.

Why is rejection such a glorious gift?  Hang on for Part III.




22 responses to “

  1. Somewhere between “You sir, are no John Kennedy”, and Whale scat lies the heart of modern day Republicans. I’m sure it was common sense rather than the gift of rejection that spirited that revelation. That and the fact that you could not afford a cheap toupee.

  2. Gerry,
    A greater storyteller, there never was! I can’t wait to hear more.
    A long time fan,
    Terrie Hutton 🙂

  3. If it’s really possible that even one person on this site has NEVER read Gerry’s book “The Making of a Country Lawyer”, just wanted to say you will NOT be able to put it down once you even read the jacket!

    Warning: Do NOT begin this book the night before you have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. Can’t think of a better Xmas gift for the “Person who has everything” either. You will always have something interesting to talk about with the recipients for a long time.

  4. Hello Gerry,
    I never actually heard of you until a few days ago. I’m one of those dummies who wants to go to law school, Wyoming no less!, and happened on a youtube video that talked about your career and such. I usually stay off of things like this because I’m not a big opinions type guy but I have grown a certain affinity to what ya say. I think it’s because I can relate to what you’ve shared. I’m really glad you share because it gives me hope for what I want to do. Please keep up the work.

  5. How nice of you to take postings from Skeeter obviously meant for Phil Spector – who, ofcourse, doesn’t have a blog anymore !


  6. PS. My favorite photo in the book was of your “campaign buggy” which just MIGHT WORK in todays world. “Change” and all that……..
    A man ahead of his time.

  7. PPS.
    Looks like all this “Rejection” might have been for me.

    If so, I’m most flattered.

  8. Gerry, who believed in you? What people in your life had the most positive influence on you as you were growing up? Who did you admire, and for that matter, who do you admire now?

  9. I’ve always marveled at the ability of some lawyers to wear multiple hats during their legal careers making the switch from defense to prosecution and vice versa. Personally, I could never contemplate working as a prosecuting attorney. It’s hard to imagine winning a big conviction and going to the local watering hole with my colleagues to toast some poor bastard’s trip to the penitentiary. To me, that typically just compounds an already sorry situation…

  10. Mr Spence, Thank you. I appreciate the read and looking forward to the rest of the story. Always does a rejected hearts soul good to read of rejection of a now known winner. Best, Del

  11. Gerry, you truly are the wisest man in America.

    Rejection is truly a gift.

    And, so are you.

    Now if you’d only prompt CNBC to release the DVDs of “The Gerry Spence Show”. We all want them!

  12. Gerry,

    I remember well when your name was placed in consideration for the county judge vacacy at Riverton. Those of us in the press heard from residents on both sides of the fence with their 2 cents worth, wondering if you would be appointed and when an a decision might be made. Because of this interest, we began asking these questions of Governor Hathaway at his weekly press conferences. After several weeks of cringing at the question, the governor finally announced his selection as the first item at his press conference. The only time I can remember of a gubernatorial announcement for a county level appointment rating so high.

    Incidentally, quite often when people find out I’m a kid from Wyoming, they ask about you, Gerry. But lately, I think that fellow down the road, Alan Simpson, has been stealing your thunder with his words about Social Security.

  13. Gerry,

    What a thrill it was to run across your website today. You write like you speak, and I feel energized and fearless when I read your posts.


  14. Elmo thinks Mr. Green Frog has been quiet for too long……….

    Some of us have followed YOU our entire life ‘ you are OUR LIFE.

  16. Realizing your readers haven’t been asked -but if we WERE asked to individually write part III of the Glorious Gift of Rejection- my humble and respectful contribution , after living a good while, would be:

    1. If you think “The grass is always greener”, you must have your tongue stuck permanently to your cheek!

    2.Be careful what you wish for – you just may get it!

  17. Well THAT was charming of me! Atleast I CARE about you after a glass of wine!
    In 35+ years have NEVER had/needed one when hubby travelling on business- so decided to FIX situation permanently by renting a place and just leaving unliveable situation. It’s unliveable by anyones measure.

    Thanks for letting me be a part of your group while I was going through it all.
    Will always owe you for that. It was both educational and entertaining. Especially learned that the “bigger” you are the thicker the skin to survive.

  18. PS. Happy Holidays and the BEST YEAR ever ahead for you, yours and TLC. Truly.

  19. preben s. hansen

    i remember actress maureen ohara appearing in the senate to ask them honor john wayne with a award, they asked what it should say, she replied. john wayne an american. well i think it would also be appropiate for you gerry to receive such an honor. may you enjoy retirement- preben the great dane

  20. Some of us, those who have followed you all of our life, know that your BIRTHDAY is COMING UP,Monsieur.
    We’ve been thinking about it for MONTHS!
    Your really are loved.

  21. Pingback: Rejection « innocencemattersblog

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