Driving around Arlington often triggers memories for me and when I happened upon the Clyde R. Ashworth Elementary School on Silo Road, the feelings were particularly tender because I remember the man.
During my first year at Arlington State College, I had worked as a legal secretary for a very difficult attorney – which seemed the norm back in those days. After the birth of my first son, I took a similar job at the local firm of Devore and Ashworth.
Clyde Ashworth was a very different boss – a quiet, dignified, ethical man esteemed by everyone in his gravitational pull. He had a way of “seeing” people, “knowing” who they were.
He quickly identified my analytical bent, how easily I took to the law, and he began to train and utilize me as a paralegal. At that time, it was possible to earn a law degree through a special tutelage and sponsorship of an attorney in good standing, and by special testing.
Mr. Ashworth encouraged me in that direction, and had I not been dedicated to my other new job – that of wife and mother – there is every chance I would have followed this path.
Still, my tenure at Devore and Ashworth was valuable to me as a young professional and as a person – thanks to Clyde Ashworth’s kindness and encouragement.
Permanently etched in memory is the time that he sent me to District Court to “argue” a Default Judgment. To be clear, default requires no argument at all. The suit is filed, the Defendant is served, and if they do not Answer by the Court deadline, Plaintiff’s attorney prepares a Default Judgment and the Judge signs it automatically. Simple as that.
But I think Mr. Ashworth wanted me – this fledgling paralegal and attorney wanna be – to have the experience of arguing a legal position. Not in Court actually, but in Chambers, which was an experience in and of itself.
A friend of Mr. Ashworth’s, the Judge was a stereotypical Texan, wearing boots under his robe. “Wa-al Jonnie, what do you think the law says about this here Default Judgment,” he asked. As I rattled off the law, he periodically dipped behind his desk, pulled open a drawer, and spat tobacco into an old coffee can.
“Persackly what I think the law says,” the Judge responded, and signed my Judgment. I grew a foot that day; beamed all the way back to Arlington, one of many such occasions when working for this kind and wise mentor, Clyde Ashworth.
Eventually I left the law firm and lost track of Mr. Ashworth after I moved from the state. He went on to do great things here – served as a District Court Judge and on the Texas Appellate Court, was Chairman of the Texas Turnpike Authority and President of the Arlington School Board.
And I suspect left behind him a string of “Jonnies” – staff, clients, citizens well served by this special man of integrity and soul.
— Jonnie Martin