Macon, who has practiced law for more than 40 years, has served with 16 local, statewide and national organizations. Most of those affiliations are related to the practice of law, but its Macon’s highly regarded work and support for causes – civil and children’s rights, specifically – that has gotten her acquainted with a number of political, civic and business leaders, noted diplomats and Nobel Peace Prize winners and nominees over the decades.
She was San Antonio’s first woman City Attorney, serving for six years during a time the city experienced significant shifts in local politics and economic development, an era when few women held real positions of power. Many of the hundred of women civic and business leaders in San Antonio today count Macon as a trailblazer, one a of a handful of women in her generation who defied convention to achieve their full potential.
Macon will receive the World Affairs Council of San Antonio’s 2016 International Citizen of the Year Award on Thursday. Macon will be joined at that event by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; author David Roosevelt, grandson of President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; former Mayor Henry Cisneros; and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
They all know Macon in one way or another – no small achievement for someone who was born in the small Texas town of Kingsville.
“(But) when you grow up in South Texas, you will eventually come to San Antonio,” said Macon, who formed a global perspective on things early in life as she was born into a family of educators that frequently traveled around the world.
Three years after earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1967, she graduated from the UT School of Law. She practiced law for 30 years at Fulbright and Jaworski, two years in Atlanta, and the last two years at Bracewell Giuliani.
Macon had a front row seat as the City Attorney during the late 1970s and early 1980s, years when San Antonio made remarkable political and economic strides, moving from at-large to single-member City Council district elections, which brought about greater representation for the Hispanic and African-American communities at City Hall.
She served for four years under Lila Cockrell, the city’s first woman mayor, and then two years under Cockrell’s successor, Henry Cisneros, the first Latino to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city. For much of Macon’s tenure as city attorney, Tom Huebner served as city manager. He was followed by Lou Fox.
“It was a lot of fun. We were blessed with a great city manager. We as a city were totally undaunted in what we wanted to do,” Macon recalled of Huebner’s leadership. “This city was a fabulous place to work and live in and still is.”
Former Mayor Cockrell recalls when Huebner, as city manager, recommended Macon for city attorney. After meeting Macon, Cockrell said her initial reaction was she was too young for the position.
“When I first saw her, she was young and very attractive. I just remember thinking, ‘I hope she knows a lot about law,’” Cockrell laughed. “But she was a whiz, an absolute whiz. There were no doubts in my mind that she would make a great city attorney.”
Former Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed was an assistant district attorney in the early ’70s, and got to know Macon well then. They were essentially neighbors in Monte Vista.
“She was deserving of (the city attorney appointment). It was a big challenge for her to step into such a position,” Reed said. “She was incredible at her job, but she was also incredible at networking, putting together people, situations, deals. She had the legal skills to put all that together.”
Macon recalled when new major hotels opened and vintage buildings were refurbished along the River Walk, adding a dimension to the area’s economic development.
“That expanded the tax base and really connected the River Walk with the Alamo. That got local investors more invested,” she said. Cockrell said Macon was instrumental in laying the legal groundwork that held to the development of Rivercenter Mall, now the Shops at Rivercenter, which opened in 1988.
“Jane was the one who went in there and helped negotiate those contracts. She was astute and helped to build up the economic development that would be instrumental to this city,” Cockrell said.
Macon was pleased to serve the City in a historic time during which Hispanics such as Cisneros, Bernardo Eureste and Joe Aldrete emerged as civic leaders. Leaders like Cisneros took political risks and succeeded, she said.
Then-Mayor Cockrell deputized Macon to launch a Texas chapter of the influential International Women’s Forum, which connected preeminent women across careers, continents, and cultures. Macon served as president of the forum, which provided British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Filipino President Corazón Aquino their first worldwide networks of women power brokers.
“Jane was one of the major forces behind the International Women’s Forum,” Reed said, adding that practically wherever Macon goes abroad, she will take something from home and leave a lasting impression.
“Going to London, she’d take Texas Rangers pens or hats to give away,” Reed adds.
It was through the forum that Macon forged a friendship with Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, the first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. That resulted in Macon’s recent appointment as chairwoman of Siebert Financial Corp.
“Mickie Siebert isn’t a household name, but she is in the history books,” Macon said. Macon only continued to make more connections with many other power brokers in civic, political and business circles nationwide and globally. Aside from Cockrell and Reed, noted movers and shakers in San Antonio, such as Rosemary Kowalski, founder of the RK Group, and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, have long been impressed with Macon’s work.
Kowalski has known Jane Macon and her husband, noted attorney and longtime marathon runner Larry Macon, for years. She first met Jane Macon when their daughters attended law school at UT.
“I’m always overwhelmed at the amount of projects and working abilities she has, and all that she accomplishes everyday,” Kowalski said. “Not only is she always working, but she’s helping people.”
Kowalski said Macon is part of a generation of individuals who helped to develop the San Antonio that exists today.
“We built this city. People like Jane put nails into the boards for the growth of high-rises. I watched San Antonio grow from a country town to be the seventh-largest city in the country. It’s hard to stop bragging about Jane,” Kowalski said.
Wolff echoed Kowalski’s sentiment.
“Jane is deserving of the award. She played a key role in helping to get Texas A&M to expand here, and she’s had many roles in international relations,” Wolff said. The county judge also said he is amazed by the pedigree of people Macon has met over the decades.
“From the International Women’s Forum to chairing Siebert Financial, she has made many great connections all over the city and the globe,” he added.
A good deal of success in her life, personally and professionally, lies in the formation of relationships and participation with organizations, she said, by helping others succeed with their own goals. She is past president of Texas Women Lawyers and the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association. She serves as the program chair of the San Antonio Bar Association, president of what is now the Center for American and International Law, director of the Women’s Advocacy Board, and director of the Texas City Attorneys Association.
Macon is also a board member of the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Center for Democracy, and the National Women’s Political Caucus, among other advocacy groups. In 2000, President Clinton appointed Macon to the Selective Service Appeal Board.
“One of the most important things I’ve experienced is being part of organizations that help women and minorities get elected to office,” she said.
Along the way, Macon has received awards and honors from various local, statewide and national civic and business organizations. Family Violence Prevention Services (formerly Battered Women and Children’s Shelter) is one such organization that has honored Macon and her work.
“Jane was instrumental in helping the Battered Women’s shelter early on. She really has maintained her connections and support of organizations, and stayed involved with them,” Reed said.
When Macon learned she would be receiving the 2016 International Citizen of the Year award from the World Affairs Council, she was only too happy to help facilitate involvement of notable national and international personalities at this year’s council gala dinner.
Aside from Albright, David Roosevelt, Cisneros and Hutchison, the Feb. 25 event is scheduled to include Dr. Rajaa Khuzai, a past Nobel Peace Prize nominee, British writer Rosalind Miles, and former State Sen. John Montford.
“All of these connections … I have been very fortunate to have met all of these people at different parts of our lives,” Macon said.
Cockrell and Reed both described Macon as a caring person and great friend.
“She’s my idea of San Antonio’s Wonder Woman. She has so many talents. She cares about people, reaches out to them. She cares about the law and how it affects people,” Cockrell said. The former mayor remembers one time when she and Macon, years ago, visited an ailing Rev. Claude Black, noted civic leader, in the hospital.
“There she was, looking over the care he was receiving, talking with the doctors and nurses,” Cockrell recalled of that visit. “If you have a problem, there is no better advocate.” More recently, Macon accompanied Cockrell to get medical attention after the former mayor suffered a fall. The two women remain in close touch.
“She’s a smart attorney, a wonderful negotiator and a dear friend. I’m thrilled she was chosen for this award,” said Cockrell.
Reed remembers one occasion years ago when Rosemary Kowalski fell at her office and dislocated her shoulder. Kowalski managed to call Macon who called Reed. At the same time, Macon was monitoring Claude Black’s hospitalization.
“She was shuttling in between places and people. She goes out of her way to see if you’re OK. When somebody is down, she steps forward,” Reed said of Macon.
“I’m speechless and feel very humbled,” Macon says of the World Affairs Council award. “I feel that way because so many people have come before me and they have been pillars of the community. I feel very honored and, quite frankly, quite undeserving.”
Macon said her success is evidence that persistence through all adversity in life matters.
“Anyone can do anything here in San Antonio. You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth,” Macon said.
*Top image: Jane Macon (right) welcomes British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before Thatcher’s inauguration to the 1990 Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Jane Macon.