Jean C. McEvoy, an attorney and leader in the Sacramento legal community who was a champion for women and social justice, died Sunday. She was 69 and recently hospitalized for pneumonia, her family said.
Ms. McEvoy was a strong advocate for others well before she became a lawyer specializing in estate planning and conservatorships. She lived in South Africa in her 20s and was active in the Black Sash, a movement by white women who opposed apartheid. She spoke out against the system of forced racial segregation and was expelled from the country for helping black women obtain passes to get jobs in the city.
"She was only 5 foot 4," said her cousin Tom Huff. "It was easy to underestimate how forceful she could be."
Ms. McEvoy graduated from McGeorge School of Law in 1983 and joined Desmond, Miller & Desmond law firm before working in solo practice for the last 15 years. Widely respected by her peers, she received the Court Service Award from the probate and estate planning section of the Sacramento County Bar Association.
Besides her legal skills, she was known for being compassionate and committed to assisting people in need. She gently guided clients through estate planning and helped resolve family disputes in probate matters. She advocated for conservatees and for children whose parents could not care for them as a court-appointed attorney, often for discounted or no fees.
Ms. McEvoy supported opportunities for women, especially in law. She was a leader in bar organizations and past president of Women Lawyers of Sacramento. She mentored new lawyers and encouraged students in paralegal classes she taught at Humphreys College and American River College to enroll in law school.
"She facilitated things and introduced people to other people all over the state," lawyer Frances An said. "She would bring people together and make things happen, and you weren't even aware of it. She worked so hard behind the scenes."
The daughter of a lawyer, Jean Caroline McEvoy was born in Detroit in 1943. She moved with her family to Palo Alto and graduated from Palo Alto High School.
She earned an anthropology degree from UC Berkeley in 1966 and graduated from the British Institute of Personnel Management in London in 1974.
She was divorced and had no children. After graduating from law school, she put off taking the California bar exam for several years to care for her ailing mother. She was predeceased in 1976 by her older brother Jimmy, a UC Davis sociology professor.
Although she had no immediate survivors, Ms. McEvoy was close to her cousins and many friends and colleagues in Sacramento. Active in public service, she received the Justice Frances Newell Carr Award from the Women Lawyers Association for her work with Jericho, an interfaith advocacy group; and Women's Wisdom Project, an empowerment program for women.
She was a driving force behind Operation Protect and Defend, a lauded education program that sends judges and lawyers into high school classrooms to help students explore constitutional rights.
"Jean had this ability to understand what people needed to make their lives better and this ability to move things along and make it happen," her cousin said. "She wasn't a do-gooder. She just saw something that needed to be done, and she did it."
Jean C. McEvoy
Born: May 1, 1943
Died: April 14, 2013
Services: 11 a.m. Friday at Trinity Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave., Sacramento
Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Women Lawyers of Sacramento and earmarked for Operation Protect and Defend.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.