News & Politics

Greg Craig’s A-List

The star Lawyer has met all the right people, and some of the wrong ones, to amass the most interesting mix of clients, friends, Enemies, and connections in town

Party hosted by Gregory Craig for his law clients would be quite an affair. It would include a US president, a man who shot a president (not the same one), a man who parks cars for a living, a famous US senator, and the senator's somewhat infamous nephew. And, of course, it would have to include the world's most famous six-year-old boy. Throw in friends, associates, and a couple of courtroom foes, and you'd have one interesting gathering.

At Williams & Connolly, a high-profile law firm filled with legal superstars, Craig has emerged as one of the nation's most recognizable lawyers. It is a role that, by breeding, education, contacts, and experience, he seems very qualified to fill.

The son of a Navy lieutenant, Craig was born in 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia, but he spent most of his young life in Palo Alto, California, where his father became Stanford University's dean of men after World War II. Following prep school at prestigious Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Craig enrolled at Harvard and graduated in the Class of 1967.

Craig was excused from military service because of an injury that may have been suffered on the lacrosse field at Exeter. So instead of shipping out to Vietnam after college, he moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Cambridge University in England, where he received a master's degree in historical studies.

He returned to the United States to enroll at Yale Law School in a class that included Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham, and David Kendall–who along with Craig took a job at Williams & Connolly.

Craig left three years later to teach at Yale and work as a Connecticut public defender while his wife, Derry, got a master's degree in fine arts. They returned to Washington, where she set up a graphics company that designs, among other things, postage stamps.

With good looks, prominent clients, and a winning record, Greg Craig moved to the top of Washington's legal establishment. Here are some of the people he has known, represented, or opposed along the way:

Craig's most famous classmate at Harvard was actor John Lithgow, star of the TV series Third Rock From the Sun, in which Lithgow, sort of like little Elián, is an alien.

At Yale law school, Craig met but did not befriend classmates Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham. He did befriend David Kendall, with whom he decided to take a job at Williams & Connolly.

 In their first big criminal case, Craig and Kendall masterminded the acquittal of DC parking magnate Dominic Antonelli, who was accused of conspiracy and fraud with a former DC official, Joseph Yeldell.


One of Craig's assignments at Williams & Connolly was the defense of would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley. Craig helped develop the theory that Hinckley was so insanely in love with actress Jodie Foster that he didn't know better than to shoot Ronald Reagan.

With Hinckley locked up at St. Elizabeths, Foster enrolled at Yale, Craig's alma mater. She later made a movie with John Lithgow.


Back in Washington after teaching at Yale, Craig took a job as a defense-policy analyst in the office of Senator Edward Kennedy. When he returned to private law practice in 1988, this turned out to have been a good career move, as the Kennedys became regular clients.


In 1991, three years after leaving Senator Kennedy's office, Craig was hired to help him prepare testimony in the rape trial of senatorial nephew William Kennedy Smith, who was acquitted.

Three years later the Kennedy connection paid off again when Smith was arrested after allegedly slugging a bar bouncer in Clarendon. Craig got Smith off with one year of unsupervised probation and 100 hours of community service. He then quietly settled the bouncer's $500,000 lawsuit against Smith.


Craig's work for Senator Kennedy on Latin American issues brought him other clients. He was hired by Haiti's powerful Mevs family, who had been friends with dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier, to represent their interests during the return of now- President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti.

Then the government of Panama hired Craig to sue former dictator Manuel Noriega, who was believed to have hidden millions of dollars before being arrested by American troops and shipped to Miami, where he was convicted of drug trafficking.


In 1998, Craig and Kendall engineered the acquittal of their former law-school classmate Bill Clinton, only the second president in history to be tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.

During the impeachment drama, Clinton was seated next to Jodie Foster at a gala dinner in New York City.


Craig was hired by the National Council of Churches to represent Juan Miguel González, the father of shipwrecked Cuban refugee Elián González.

Early speculation as to who was paying Craig's bill had fingered Dwayne Andreas, the head of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. Andreas has been trying for years to ingratiate himself with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in hopes of building a vegetable-oil refining plant there.

In 1996, ADM paid $100 million to settle an antitrust case brought by the Justice Department, led then as now by Attorney General Janet Reno, who ordered the raid that freed Elián and set the wheels in motion for his return to Castro's Cuba.


for nearly a decade, Brendan Sullivan –who made headlines defending Oliver North and telling the Senate, "I'm not a potted plant"–has been Williams & Connolly's best-known attorney.

Many argue that Craig, after saving the President from Senate conviction and now appearing to be on the verge of winning the return of Elián to his home, has become the number-one attorney at the firm.

Skeptical insiders point out that Craig may be bringing in the publicity, but it's Sullivan who still brings in the cash.