Vee asked about my senior law partner, whom I mentioned in my last post on trivia. For one thing, let me say that she is not “trivia,” by any means. This post is a brief overview of “A’s” remarkable life. The anecdotes would fill a book. Why, we could do a whole separate blog simply on A’s life stories.
A was born in 1921. She came up through a time that was not only financially-challenging, but was no world in which a woman could reasonably expect to gain anything but a husband and family without a hard struggle. A had the brains and the grit for the struggle…
She had an older brother who was in “business school” in their small town. At the age of 12, this little girl talked the owner of the school into letting her attend class to learn shorthand in return for chores around his house. (Do you people remember Gregg Shorthand? I do! I still use mine, from my high school class). She took to this like a duck to water and even accompanied her neighbor, a court reporter, to court and practiced there. It was a skill she never forgot.
A went to college, graduated with honors and began work on a Masters Degree in English. She began to teach at the local college. While there she was offered a court reporting job in a larger, university town some 150 miles away. Someone had heard through the grapevine that she had a skill in shorthand. She took the job and moved. (She was married, but I am not even going into her three marriages here—would take too long).
She began the job as reporter for the circuit court. The term “circuit” was used because these judges traveled a “circuit” from town-to-town for trials. A traveled around with him. Oh, the stories…but, the long and short of it is that this judge made several advances to her and, rebuffed, he later refused to renew her contract, chiding her that she was, basically, worthless. (And they say hell hath no fury like that of a scorned woman!). She had a baby by this time.
Determined to show him, she helped support the family by free-lance reporting and enrolled in law school, the only woman student. She also attended with our state’s first African-American law student. Not enough time in this post to include the interesting stories about that…
Skipping a whole bunch of fascinating stuff here, let me say that she graduated No. 1 in her law class and scored the highest on the bar examination. Her physician, impressed with her, recommended her to a friend of his in the capital city for a position in a very esteemed firm—the largest in our state, and one that is still in existence.
A was excited to see an envelope from this prestigious firm. Imagine how she felt when she read (and I paraphrase): “Dear A. We are very impressed with your accomplishments, and you are to be congratulated. However, we do not believe that there will ever be a place in our firm for a woman attorney. We hope you find your niche.”
This is only one of many such discriminations A endured.
Again, skipping right along, suffice it to say that she pulled herself upright and went on to accomplish an amazing professional career, raising two children, and earning herself a reputation as, first a prosecutor and then into private practice where she became the maven of divorce law in our state (in spite of three basically worthless husbands she practically had to step over to do so).
She is known for fierce representation, and many a male lawyer has dreaded dealing with her. A function of her life of hard knocks is that she has the mouth of a sailor. But here’s the real paradox: She’s a coifed, petite, Southern lady of manners, bejeweled with God-only-knows how many dollars worth of the “real stuff,” including her five-carat “everyday” diamond, and you’d never expect her to unload the string of profanity just by looking. I have seen her cuss folks under the table in terms I would never breathe to a client or opposing counsel. It is a surreal experience.
It must be said here that A is a deeply-religious woman. (Do you have whiplash yet from all this contradictory information?). She is in church each and every Sunday and is a faithful member of her ladies’ circle. I’ll never forget leaving the office late one afternoon, thinking I was the last in the office but noticing A’s office light on. As I told her “good by,” she looked up and said, “C, do you have a yellow highlighter?”
When I returned with the requested highlighter, I asked what she was doing, and here was her reply: “I’m leadin’ the G—D--- Bible Study tonight, and I’m just gettin’ ‘round to reading the G—D—lesson!” I swear to you I heard God laughing…He knows that her crusty exterior is born of her hard-scramble life and that she has a true heart.
She has become a legend in our state. I cannot go to lunch with her without being accosted by several who drop by our table to pay homage to the maven of divorce law. And every lawyer around who has more than fifteen years’ experience has a story about her. She’s a mover in the political party of her choice and knows the high-and-mighty personally. They, too, pay homage to this legendary woman.
She is a social butterfly, attending all the symphony concerts and anything that smacks of culture. She is an amazing ballroom dancer, and she is a member of three dance clubs, doing the waltz and tango each and every weekend that she is not otherwise occupied with some social function.
She’s 89 years old and drives her brand-new Jaguar to work each day (some times in leather pants!). Her work is her life. We other attorneys in the firm do all the “heavy lifting” for her now, but Ms. A is still requested by clients, so vast is her reputation, and she sits in with us on interviews. We do the trial work. It is a happy half-way retirement for her.
So, when I titled this post, “O Pioneer!” it was a true reflection of how I feel about this beloved fellow attorney. She is an inspiration. She blazed a trail for the likes of me. C