In person on Wednesday, she was reserved and gracious as she spoke to a crowd of more than 700 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
The Macon native, now based in New York where she hosts a show about current crime news on HLN, was honored as the YWCA of Greater Atlanta’s 2010 Woman of Achievement. Her remarks were brief and heartfelt.
“I grew up in the middle of soybean fields with pine trees as far as the eye could see, where the sound of church bells would literally bring you in for dinner,” she said. Her family lived outside town and when she first visited a YWCA, she said she thought the “M” in YMCA had been accidentally turned upside down.
She took ballet lessons at the Macon YWCA, although her family had enough money for just a leotard – not a tutu.
“Today, my daughter has three tutus,” she noted with a smile.
The author of “Objection!” and “The Eleventh Victim,” she briefly recounted her journey from teaching to law, having decided to enroll in law school instead of becoming an English professor after her fiance was murdered.
“I had no aim, no focus, until I went back to law school,” said Grace, who worked for a decade as a Fulton County prosecutor. “The first time I tried a case, I felt like a bird let out of a cage.”
Grace, whose voice choked with emotion at times, paid tribute to two women in attendance Wednesday: her mother Elizabeth, and Brenda Muhammad, whom Grace met when she worked on the case of Muhammad’s son’s murder. Muhammad is now executive director of Atlanta Victim Assistance.
“God has a plan for all of us,” Grace said. “When we are weak, he will give us all a way to be strong.”
Her voice disappearing to a whisper, Grace concluded her comments with a quick, “Thank you.”