MARTY FOX: A Quiet, Unheralded Star

Marty, thankfully, died in peace, in his sleep Monday night.

Marty was a legal journalist, without being a lawyer, many years before anyone recognized that there was such a field as legal journalism.

I always aspired to be a journalist, but for reasons too convoluted to explain, I ended up in law school and Marty showed me the way. It was at my first job in 1972 as a staff attorney in the civil legal services program in Harlem that I came into contact with the New York Law Journal.

The paper’s front, and only, news page was a jumble of antiquated type faces, laid out in single columns often running from top to bottom of the page. To put it mildly, the layout was off putting, and hard to decipher.

But in the midst of the cacophony, there were gems of articles by Marty, untangling the dense legal prose of judicial decisions, often with a touch of humor.

He had come to the Law Journal from Newsday, and without fanfare turned out articles on decisions issued by judges in New York City, who came to trust his accuracy and professionalism. In his later years at the Journal, he edited the “Today’s News” column which became a first read for many of the city’s lawyers. He had an eye for quirky items of interest to the bar and a good sense of news which sometimes brought him into conflict with his superiors. He knew a wet kiss when he saw one; and wasn’t afraid to put forward items that might displease the lions of the bar.

He did this all in unheralded obscurity. He deserves credit for helping to usher in the new era of legal journalism. This was before Steve Brill’s The American Lawyer and Court TV, which whetted America’s appetite for legal news and sent into the world a host of superstars including Jill Abramson, now the executive editor of The New York Times, and James Stewart, of now a regular contributor at both the Times and the New Yorker.

At work, Marty was self-contained, totally unassuming without a bone of self-promotion like so many of us others (yours truly included). Marty’s reputation among lawyers and judges for accuracy and clarity in his writing was very much deserved.

I have known Marty since I joined the Law Journal in 1983 and remained in touch over the years after he left the paper. He has a special place in my heart for his quiet, persistent and unassuming ways. I am also pleased that after leaving the Journal, he had the time to pursue his first love—fiction writing. He was a great role model, and I will miss him.

He was also very fortunate to have his wife Gail at his side, who knew his passion to write fiction and his love of life’s ironies and the humor hidden in them. She calls Marty “her rock,” but in these last difficult months she has been his rock. My heartfelt sympathies go out to her and other members of their family.

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One response to “MARTY FOX: A Quiet, Unheralded Star

  1. Harry Reynolds

    I was deeply moved, Dan, by your touching article about Marty’s death. I remember his soft, kind voice, his careful coverage of whatever came into his hands, and his knowing, low pitched laughter on hearing the report of an untenable statement. He was a piece of bread. Put another way, whenever I had the occasion to speak to him, I had the feeling that I was at home.

    Harry Reynolds