On January 22, 2015, Martha Fay (“Marty”) Africa passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. A founding member of global legal services firm Major Lindsey & Africa, she was the founder of ABA Women Rainmakers. Marty was known for her great passion and many contributions to the legal profession, focused on the advancement of women and minorities. LPT asked former Women Rainmakers chair Heather Jefferson to provide her memories of Marty.
I met Marty Africa as a young lawyer, just starting my career and in awe of the many experienced lawyers I met through ABA activities. It took me some time to realize that Marty was not a lawyer. She moved in and out of the prestigious ABA circles with such ease. Everyone has a Marty Africa story, and for the time that my professional life intersected with hers, I was belly laughing with her and the many members of the ABA Women Rainmakers. I was lucky, very lucky, to cross paths with Marty.
Like everyone that knew her, I was saddened to learn of her death. Even though she valiantly fought cancer for some time, it still came as a shock. I sat in my car for a few quiet minutes after receiving an e-mail from Marty’s dear friend and longtime Women Rainmaker member, Shelley Canter. I sat in the quiet just thinking of and recalling my memories of Marty. My thoughts immediately ran to my former law partner, Ellisa Opstbaum Habbart. Ellisa was the one who introduced me to the powerhouse that was Marty Africa. Ellisa and Marty were close, closer than family. As I started to go through the list of those that would be so affected by the news, my heart just broke.
When I was asked to memorialize Marty for her contributions to the Law Practice Division, I paused. Many knew her longer, deeper, and closer than I did. Yet, although I am one of many women to whom Marty entrusted the leadership of Women Rainmakers, it still always belonged to her. I’m one of the many, many women whose career benefited from the battles she fought.
I lost touch with Marty and many of my ABA friends and colleagues as I started a family. Looking to balance family and career, I left private practice for an in-house role. But I never forgot to send Marty a holiday card each year, my way of saying : “I am thinking of you; I miss you.” There were so many heartfelt responses and comments to Shelley’s e-mail on the news of Marty’s passing. I thought many of those words really said it all. This is just a small sample, without attribution:
- Magnificent spirit
- Warm smile
- Personal and outstanding contributions on behalf of the legal profession
- Passion, courage, sincerity, good humor
- A force
- What a light she was
- She is at peace.
About the Author
Heather D. Jefferson, General Counsel, National Corporate Research, Ltd. is a Former Chair of the ABA Women Rainmakers. She can be reached at email@example.com.