DAVIS, Martha Sherrill In her sleep, before she was scared, in pain, alone, or broke. Martha Sherrill Davis, born January 7, 1939 in Austin, BA UT at A, JD Baylor Law, LLM Harvard Law, "Federal Standards of Review" by Childress and Davis, Professor Emeritus, Thurgood Marshall Law School, died in Duncansville PA, August 8, 2020. Martha Jo Sherrill was born to M.O. "Red" Sherrill and "Billie" Drake Sherrill, in 1939, the eldest of five surviving children, and into a very different Austin. When her class opened a brand new and first for Austin, integrated McCallum High, she made friends and she lost friends. The ones she lost, she chose not to recall, the ones she kept and added were close to her heart until these final days. Times change. Places and other people change. Red heads hold grudges and love deeply forever. Married to Carl Bowen Davis of Ft. Worth in 1962, among many notions, he offered gently, "You were not properly appreciated. Universities should have been competing for you, not 'letting you type and take some classes'." Thus, began her conscious consciousness raising. Two children, four cars, 7 street addresses, 4 PO Boxes, two mortgages, and three law firms later, Martha, nearing 40, went to her attorney boss to quit her legal typing job and take a higher paying, office manager job across town. She came home looking dazed. Bowen said, "You didn't quit. You're going to law school." " Did they call you?" "No, I've just been waiting for you to make up your mind." Martha went to law school, sponsored by two former Texas Bar presidents, one successful SCotUS appellate attorney, and a sitting US Federal Judge. They too had been waiting for her to make up her mind. After starting her JD as a 'mature student' and depleting nearly all the family savings, mid-way she realized she had no interest in practicing law. She extended her schooling for a Harvard Law post doctorate LLM, 'a teaching degree'. Thirty-nine class months after she left the typing pool, at age 43, Martha began teaching law in 1982 at the University of South Dakota Law School. There were not enough female law professors in the U.S. to fill a school bus. Bowen counted them. The degrees took 15 years to pay off, took away her poetry writing, relegated 'pleasure reading' to between semesters, and uprooted her family 4+ times in 13 years. But she authored two parts of the first comprehensive and still premier legal treatment of Federal Standards of Review (the path from the street to the supreme court, step by step, rule by rule). It is a book about deference, from a woman who earned the right to show almost none. Yes indeed, "she wrote the book". She also taught thousands of now practicing attorneys, judges, and all-around good folk. They can each tell you, they understand 'the awwwl biness', the statue of frogs, how not to get lost on a black acre, and how to negotiate with 'gawdawful binesses' (beyond those just in 'awwwl') to get the working man and woman their due. Two brain aneurysms were discovered in 2010 and 1 hour after she turned in her graded spring finals, she went under the knife. Per the surgeon, it "turned out to be a really interesting procedure", ending her legal career at Thurgood Marshall Law School, the last and fondest stop of her 26 years of teaching (one year out to clerk for that US Federal Judge, incredibly proud to have a bonafide Harvard grad and law professor clerking for him in Tyler Texas). Martha has spent the last decade with frustrating aphasia, but has been content, happy, reading mysteries again, reminiscing with family, and singing almost everything published in the American catalog between 1880 and 1958. Largely by choice, the only adult responsibilities she kept for herself were picking her books, her clothes, and VOTING. It was a good life. It ended on terms to be envied. The only piece of 'binness' left undone was to live long enough to vote that rascal out. That she leaves to the rest of us.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 15, 2020.