Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham (VLB) is sad to mark the passing of Martha Jane Patton, a true hero in the legal-aid community. A lawyer and advocate for justice on behalf of disadvantaged communities, Patton spent 18 years at the helm of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham—a non-profit service organization that provides court-appointed legal representation for children and low-income adults.
Jequette Edmonson, current Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society, remembers Patton as a dedicated public servant who inspired many.
“The death of my predecessor, Martha Jane Patton, leaves a huge void in the hearts of her Legal Aid family,” Edmonson says. “She manned the helm diligently from 1998 to 2016. She had a heart for children and the less fortunate. She was very civic-minded and often worked the polls on election days. This is not only a tremendous loss for us but for the city of Birmingham.”
Raised in Decatur, Ala., Patton graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1968 and the Cumberland School of Law in 1978. She worked in private practice until becoming Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society in 1998. She was also a board member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, Patton regularly took part in nonviolent protests for Civil Rights and was proud to say that she once spent a night in jail for “parading without a permit.”
Never one to hold back her opinions, Patton was active on social media until the end, weighing in on political issues and the needs of the disadvantaged citizens for whom she spent her life fighting. She fittingly identified herself on Twitter as “Champion of the Underdog.”
We will miss Patton’s dedication, knowledge, and humor as we join the Legal Aid Society in celebrating her life and accomplishments.