Spencer W. Viner Esq.

Inducted: 2018

“My parents taught me the importance of being honest and fair in all my dealings, to look for the good in people, to try to ignore their shortcomings, and to be kind to everyone.” Spencer Viner took this advice to heart and hopefully imparted these maxims to his two daughters, Tonja and Lindsey. With his wife, Darcy, Spencer calls this foursome “a true team.” He has learned from them that the best “things” in life aren’t “things” at all!
Spencer describes himself as an ordinary man who has been on an extraordinary journey from Rhode Island to Vietnam, from the local practice of law to arguing before the United States Supreme Court, and from politics and the Mob while witnessing and sidestepping the seduction of corruption.
Born in humble circumstances on Dudley Street in South Providence, Spencer moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island which became his home base. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science from Washburn University and a Juris Doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law. He was drafted by the Army in 1969 and, after basic and preliminary training, landed in Long Binh, Vietnam as an infantryman. He eventually served with distinction in the 101st Airborne Division. Along with a Bronze Star, Spencer earned 8 other medals and 5 citations. As applied to Spencer, the term “war hero” would not be an exaggeration!
Returning to Pawtucket, Spencer built a law practice. He became interested in politics, initially as a volunteer in several mayoral races. Ultimately, he was named City Solicitor and became involved in a seminal case before the United States Supreme Court which focused on the municipal sponsorship of a Christmas nativity scene on city property. The case had a national application when the City of Pawtucket won the right to display the crèche in a 5-4 decision. After serving as the city’s counsel for six years and, simultaneously, as legislative counsel at the General Assembly, Spencer joined the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office in 1988 under Secretary Kathleen Connell.
In 1993 Spencer went to work with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA). This union became the subject of an investigation by the FBI which probed for its organized crime connections. Spencer emerged unscathed as a straightforward legal counsel and a moving force in the success of Organized Laborer’s Eastern Seaboard Apprenticeship Conference.
As president of the Japan-American Society of Rhode Island and its Black Ships Festival, Spencer took the society from being virtually defunct to the robust organization it is today. Its Black Ships festival is a highlight of the summer season and puts hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Rhode Island economy. Spencer has been such an ambassador of good will with Japan that in 2017 he was only one of four Americans to receive the Order of the Rising Sun Medal from the Emperor of Japan. This award is that country’s highest civilian honor. Spencer also volunteers as a member of the Board of Overseers of Roger Williams University.
For his outstanding service to the country and this state, Spencer is now inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
Arlene Violet, Esq. (1996 Inductee)

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