David Neal McGruder, Esq. knew as a Palms Middle School student in Los Angeles that he was destined to be an attorney. His siblings and friends say that since then, all of his activities aligned with that goal.
David was the third child born to Bedford Neal McGruder and the late Deanna Powell McGruder in Santa Monica, California on Thursday, January 28, 1971. His older sisters, Jessica and Laura, say their names immediately became one, “JessicaLauraDavid.” His father said David “started talking late and then never stopped.” He loved sports and attended Magic Johnson’s basketball camp as a child, becoming a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan. He played youth basketball at the YMCA, with his team ascending to the championship played at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Also, in 1989, he was a beau in the Angel City Chapter of The Links Beautillion. As part of that program, David portrayed Malcolm X in an event where he debated a friend acting as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This solidified David’s reputation as an expert at debating, originating phrases and regaling his audience with stories.
A 1989 graduate of University High School, David traveled to the nation’s capital to study political science at Howard University. While in D.C., he became the second employee of the youth program at the community food bank, Martha’s Table, an endeavor which combined his budding community activism with his long-held desire to speak up for those who often don’t have a voice. The youth program, which had just begun, is now a massive education program. During his time at Howard, David also interned on Capitol Hill for Rep. Julian Dixon (D-CA), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and he interned at Cassidy & Associates, a lobbying firm.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in 1993, David earned his juris doctorate at the University of Southern California, where he was president of the Black Law Students Association. He then became a prosecutor at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office where he won the office’s Community Service Award. It was there that fellow prosecutor, now federal immigration judge, Oshea Spencer, introduced him to her new friend from church and another Howard University alum, Depelsha Thomas, who would later become his wife. David left the prosecutor’s office in 2001 and worked at the Manhattan labor law firm of Koehler & Isaacs for five years.
After a beautiful proposal in Negril, Jamaica, David and Depelsha wed on April 24, 2004 in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. They then moved to Brooklyn, where they purchased a brownstone in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood that would become their family home. Soon after, David hung out his shingle in 2006 and opened The Law Offices of David McGruder, Esq., where he concentrated in criminal defense and employment law for 14 years.
On August 13, 2008, David and Depelsha welcomed their first son, Garrett Thomas McGruder. Three years later, on November 2, 2011, they welcomed Grant Powell McGruder to the family.
David won acquittals for several very high-profile cases and was a distinguished member of the First Department 18B Felony Panel. He was often called to appear as a legal expert on several television networks, including CourtTV and MSNBC, where he spoke about top trials throughout the nation, including the Michael Jackson and Harvey Weinstein trials.
In the case of the People v. Brown, David filed a speedy trial motion. The motion, which was denied by the trial judge, was appealed all the way up to the state of New York’s highest court. In 2016, the Court of Appeals agreed with David’s motion, reversing the trial judge’s decision. This case, that started with David’s speedy trial motion, is now considered precedent setting as defense attorneys cite it when litigating speedy trial issues.
Outside of work and family, David was a staunch supporter of his alma mater and from 2013 to 2015 served as National Fundraising Chair of the Howard University Alumni Association. In 2011, he won the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Howard University Alumni Club of New York. In his spare time, he also enjoyed writing fiction and script treatments for potential television shows and films.
David was preceded in death by his mother, Deanna Powell McGruder. He leaves to cherish his memory his devoted wife, Depelsha, his sons, Garrett and Grant; his father, Bedford Neal McGruder: his sisters, Jessica McGruder and Laura McGruder Wynne (Peter); his mother-in-law, Charlotte Thomas; his father-in-law, Edgar Thomas, Jr.; his uncle, Jack McGruder; a host of cousins, including one who was like a brother, Mark McGruder; Nephews, Ryan and Nicholas Wynne, Julian Lozada, Camden Scruggs and Ryder Gaymon; Nieces, Morgan McGruder, Alexandra Van Veen and Kinsley Scruggs; and a legion of friends too numerous to mention that span elementary school, youth sports, middle school, high school, college, law school, adult recreational basketball leagues, parent associations and organizations and his distinguished professional career. David was a connector of people and was often described as “the ambassador.” He will be missed by many.
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