LOS ANGELES (CN) - Kiry Gray's incredible rise began when, at her late mother's urging, she turned down a job at manufacturing company Rockwell to take a temporary job in the Los Angeles Federal Court's Spring Street location in 1985.
Thirty years later, the 54-year-old created history last month by becoming the first black woman to be named clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Over the decades, Gray learned her trade in the court's offices and corridors, impressing her supervisors with her dedication early in her career.
Her boss and court executive Sherri Carter rewarded her strong work ethic by quickly promoting her to the criminal section, where she became assistant supervisor in 1987.
In 1990, she became assistant deputy-in-charge of the Southern Division in Santa Ana and later deputy-in-charge of the Eastern Division in Riverside.
Her journey came full circle when she interviewed for the clerk position earlier this year and faced a panel of judges as well as Carter.
"When I walked into the room I almost gasped," Gray said.
She commutes on the Metrolink every day from her San Bernardino County home in Colton, but does not stay idle during the 90-minute journey - using it as an opportunity to work and answer email.
Gray was born in Flint, Michigan. Her father served in the military and then the post office while her mother was also a post office worker.
She moved to California when she was two years old, later attending James Monroe High School in San Fernando Valley.
Gray lives with her husband of 33 years, Joseph Gray - a postal worker - her daughter Chelsea, an honor-roll high school student, and her nephew, Malachi Malaka. Her first child, Joshua, is a fire department captain in Forth Worth, Texas.
The new clerk is about to become a grandmother and said Joshua plans on naming the baby Justin Alexander Gray or as the clerk already affectionately calls him, "Baby JAG."
Courthouse News caught up this week with Gray at her office in downtown LA, where a congratulations banner was still hanging from the wall above a conference table.
Gray said she had no plans to redecorate her office, for two reasons. First, she prefers spending her time outside the office talking to her staff and taking meetings. Second, next year the court will move to a new federal building in LA's civic center.
As she sat down behind her desk, Gray admitted that interviews are her "least favorite thing to do."
"I'm a person who likes to remain behind the scenes," said Gray, adding, "It's just an honor, truly an honor to be here."
How does it feel to be appointed Clerk of the Court?
"It's been an amazing journey and this was certainly something that was not on my bucket list. I started off here 30 years ago and I went to Santa Ana, and worked there and went to open up the doors in Riverside - started that from ground zero - and now I'm back here where I started. So it's been an amazing journey."
You started in this building on Spring Street as a temporary worker?