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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Martha Prine Edwards: How a room full of lawyers and judges made me emotional

  • Recently I had the privilege of attending an event in St. Louis that made me proud of my gender and proud of my state. It also helped me look at the legal profession with new eyes.
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  • Recently I had the privilege of attending an event in St. Louis that made me proud of my gender and proud of my state. It also helped me look at the legal profession with new eyes.
    I went to the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Women’s Justice Awards to celebrate my friend Amy Beechner-McCarthy, who received one of these prestigious recognitions.
    There were nine categories of honorees, including Leader of Tomorrow, Public Official, Legal Scholar, Rising Star, Citizenship, Enterprise, Litigation Practitioner, Business Practitioner and Public Service Practitioner.
    Most of the recipients were attorneys or judges, but a few had no legal background, like my friend Amy.
    She was honored with an award in the Citizenship category. Amy was executive director of The Community Partnership, a local non-profit, for almost 20 years, and has achieved many wonderful things during that time.
    Now she is CEO of Your Community Health Center, our area’s new federally qualified health center, located in the Medical Office Building at Phelps County Regional Medical Center.
    If you know me, you know that I love a good story. Boy, did I hear some good ones at this event!
    Every award recipient’s story was shared in a video before the individual presentations.
    One woman’s brother was murdered her first year of law school, and she has been raising his children while going to law school and working.
    One woman spent 11 days in jail when she was part of the Civil Rights Movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Another woman spent three decades as a Registered Nurse before going into the legal profession.  
    A successful corporate attorney, blind since the age of four months, said her father sensed she would end up as an attorney because of her ability to argue effectively.
    One passionate family law practitioner spoke about an especially hard case involving cruel and unusual punishment of a child by a parent.
    There were stories of triumph, of community service, of loving families and friends, of fears and hard work.
    One recipient lost her young daughter to a brain tumor, and has spent a lot of energy and time helping other youngsters in her daughter’s memory.
    Some shared stories of legal accomplishments and personal accomplishments; some shared stories of failures that were the impetus for later success.
    I laughed and cried and laughed and cried throughout the event.  Who knew a room full of lawyers could make me so emotional?
    Surprisingly, this event was not about politics. It was about people. Very good people.
    Missouri Supreme Court Justice Mary Russell received the Women’s Justice Award’s Woman of the Year Award, and her acceptance speech focused primarily on other people who deserved credit. She also encouraged people to help others.
    Page 2 of 2 - My theory that this event might end up being an evening of lawyers boasting about how great they are turned out to be unsubstantiated.  And my heart was overflowing with pride as my friend and former boss, Amy Beechner-McCarthy, received her award. She was definitely in good company.
    Missouri is full of women with purpose, energy, intelligence, humor, self-sacrifice, love and common sense. Rest assured that Phelps County is full of women like that, too.
    The best news? There are future “Incredible Women” growing up right now in our community. Let’s continue to encourage young women to help others, set goals, pursue higher education, find their passion, value themselves and seek out healthy relationships with others.
    Martha Prine Edwards serves as director of communications and volunteer recruitment at The Community Partnership, and is a freelance writer. You can email her at ozarkswriter@hughes.net.
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