Letter From Leadership: In Loving Memory of Elizabeth Ann Whipple

From Executive Director Marty Ellin, a letter reflecting on the life and impact of Elizabeth Ann Whipple.

Liz Whipple, the Director of the AVLF Domestic Violence program from 2011 – 2015, died in April. The easy things to tell you about our former colleague, and still-close friend, was that she was an excellent lawyer, a fierce advocate for abused individuals seeking the protection the law will allow, and a mentor to hundreds in the community who volunteered or interned in the Safe Families Office. It is also easy to note that she was a creative, playful and irreverent woman who took chances and who was adored by her many, many friends for her willingness to charge outside the lines for adventure.

“That one person, one curly-headed person, can make all others better. And heartbroken.”

It is harder to speak to the impact she had on us, her former co-workers, because we are all having a very hard time grasping that such a life-affirming person is no longer alive. Liz left AVLF to take a two-year teaching Fellowship at the University of Alabama, and was to return to the Atlanta legal community in June. Her new position would have been with our close friends at Warner Bates (partner Jim McGinnis is the current AVLF Board President), but for most of us, all that really meant was that a member of our family was coming home. Now, there will be no reunion, and we are struggling to figure out how to remember Liz in ways that we, and she, would find meaningful.

Two ideas have emerged. AVLF is expanding its offices, and the new large room in that space will be dedicated as the Elizabeth Ann Whipple Training Center. Our Safe and Stable Families team currently conducts a number of trainings throughout the year teaching lawyers how to serve as a Guardian ad Litem and how to represent a victim of intimate partner violence: until now, because we have lacked a sufficient space, we have held those trainings at law firms throughout the city that have kindly opened their doors. But going forward, we will have a large and well-equipped space in which we will train lawyers to do the work at which Liz excelled, and we will invoke Liz’s name, even if only among the AVLF staff, at every training.

As well, the Whipple family has asked that in lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations be made to the Liz Whipple memorial Fund to benefit AVLF. The proceeds of those funds will always be directed to our work on behalf of those who have been abused and have no other access to legal help through which to respond to the violence. For more information, please see AVLF’s page of sweet Liz-pictures.

We already miss Liz terribly – she was absolutely one-of-a-kind. The kind the legal community, and the larger community, needed more of, the kind of lawyer who made equal access to justice more than just a catch-phrase, and the kind of person that caused Judge Jane Barwick to write this about what her friend Liz Whipple taught her: “That one person, one curly-headed person, can make all others better. And heartbroken.”