Last week I attended the funeral of my friend Martin’s father, Andrew L. Jefferson Jr. He was the first black state district judge in Texas largest county. His legal career took him from receiving his Law Degree from the University of Texas law school in the 1950s before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (he was the only black in his class), to judgeships of local civil and criminal courts, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
At the funeral, scores of lawyers, judges, and politicians waxed poetic about Judge Jefferson’s many accomplishments. Every black lawyer in Texas owed a debt to him because he paved the way for them to enjoy the opportunities that they have today. I marveled at how reverently everyone spoke of him. But what surprised me the most was that I didn’t know what a legal giant Judge Jefferson was. To me, he was just Martin’s dad and that is what I admired about him.
I remember going to Martin’s house to watch Mike Tyson fights when we were in high school and college. Judge Jefferson, or Jeff as we called him, would smoke his cigar and relax while the rest of us were hyper over the match. He always had a calm confidence about him and never missed an opportunity to impart some wisdom. He often gave us young men this advice: “If you can’t explain it to your mama, don’t do it.”
After our college graduation ceremony, he took us to one of DC’s top-notch restaurant and bought us a bottle of Dom Pérignon. He did this to teach us that the finer things in life were within our reach as long as we worked hard and persevered.
Despite the demands of his job, he rarely brought work home because he wanted to spend that time totally devoted to his family.
“Everyone around town knows him as one of the great lawyers in the city, but he was my dad,” my friend Martin said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “That was what was so important. I loved him very much.”
As much as I was impressed by Judge Jefferson’s professional accomplishments, I was more impressed by his accomplishments as a father.
Question: Have you known anyone who was “just a dad” despite their fame or accomplishments?