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Lawyer has very busy retirement
After 42 years as civil servant, Spotsylvania resident Joe Gorrell sought different line of volunteer work during his retirement

 Joe Gorrell, 72, a retired civil servant of 42 years, volunteers much
of his time at Rappahannock Legal Services, helping people in need.
He doesn't have an office; he works out of a plastic crate.

Scott Neville
Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 4/3/2005


Gorrell to be honored for pro bono work providing legal services

Joe Gorrell once rubbed elbows with presidents and directed a multimillion-dollar budget for the federal government.

These days, he helps people who can't afford legal services--and doesn't earn a dime doing it.

In his former career, he debated policies on Capitol Hill and attended hearings covered by the national media.

Now he asks children whose lives are being torn apart to pretend he's their grandpa. He tries to figure out what's best for them and offers reports to judges during hearings that are closed to the public.

At one time, he was the "No. 4 buffalo," the fourth-highest ranked person in the entire Department of Interior.

These days, he's so low on the totem pole, he works out of a plastic storage bin.

No doubt, Joe Gorrell is in a different place--almost a different universe--at this phase of his life. The work he's doing during retirement is a far cry from the positions he held during 42 years as a civil servant.

That's the point.

When it was time for Gorrell to fold his tent, as he likes to say, and leave Washington, he was ready to try the one thing he hadn't done.

He wanted to be a country lawyer.

It wasn't a total pipe dream. Gorrell earned a degree from Catholic University Law School in 1968--between working full time for the U.S. Forest Service and being the father of three.

But he'd never spent a minute before a judge, arguing a case in the traditional sense.

"My only courtroom was Capitol Hill," he said.

He'd always wondered if he could be a lawyer for the people, like a character out of a John Grisham novel.

So the man who'd worked for the Bureau of Outdoor Reacreation as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs set out to find the answer.

'Joe Monday' at your service

At 72, Gorrell is a happy-faced man with snow-white hair and a ready smile. He and his second wife, Ann, enjoy the flower and bird gardens from their kitchen window, and they could sit for hours watching winged ones.

They live in the Wilderness area of Spotsylvania County, around the corner from National Park Service land.

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