by Michael Patrick Leahy 22 Jan 2014, 10:17 AM PDT
It's one of the most striking details in Texas State Senator Wendy Davis's life uncovered by Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater: in 2005, Davis, apparently eager to advance her career, relinquished custody of not just her child with her second husband, Jeffry Davis, but also her first child from another marriage.
"It's not a good time for me right now” Davis said at the time, explaining her decision, according to Jeffry Davis.
Wendy Davis's first daughter Amber, born during her first marriage to Frank Underwood, was 23 at the time – an adult. Her daughter with Jeffry, Dru, was 17.
The Tarrant County Court granted the divorce on November 15, 2005, giving Jeffry Davis "the exclusive right to designate the primary residence" of Dru.
Wendy Davis was given weekend visitation rights and required to pay $1,200 per month in child support to her ex-husband.
In some press reports, Senator Davis appears to have been relieved, even eager, to relinquish her parental obligations. Jeffry Davis told Slater "[ s ]he did the right thing," in agreeing to the divorce decree that granted him custody. He added that in their discussions prior to finalizing the arrangement (court records state they participated in a mediation process), "She said, 'I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I've been a good mother, it's not a good time for me right now.' "
The blended family had begun on a happier note in May 1987 when Wendy, 24 at the time, and Jeffry, 37 at the time, had married. Amber, who was then 5, lived with the newly married couple, and from the beginning, her step-father raised her as his own. Jeffry Davis “considers Amber his daughter” the Houston Chronicle reported in September 2013, quoting him saying “she's been with me since she was two” – around the time Wendy Davis's first marriage ended.
The two began dating in Fort Worth in 1984 when Wendy Davis's father asked Jeffry Davis – who is about 13 years older than Wendy, if he was interested in younger women.
Jeffry Davis was a successful and established professional. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a law degree from Southern Methodist University, he started Republic Title of Texas, a real estate title company that was on its way to becoming the most successful commercial real estate title company in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Wendy Davis, then a brunette, had been working as a pediatrician's assistant and waitressing at night.
One year and four months after they were married in 1987, the couple brought daughter Dru into the world. Amber was 6.
Two years later, Wendy Davis applied and was accepted to Harvard University Law School. She left for Boston while Jeffry stayed in Texas.
The Chronicle reported "[ s ]he took the girls with her at first, but the balancing act proved difficult, and they came back home to live with Jeff."
Wendy graduated from Harvard Law School in 1993 and returned to Fort Worth, where she clerked for a federal judge, ran unsuccessfully for the Wichita City Council in 1996, and worked for a local legal firm. In 1998, she was finally elected to the Wichita City Council. During that period, she also changed her hair color to blonde.
According to Jeffrey Davis, Wendy Davis left him the day after he finished paying for her education. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left,” Jeffry Davis said. Wendy Davis didn't deny the timing, although she suggested the break was long-coming. “The idea that suddenly there was this instantaneous departure after Jeff had partnered so beautifully with me in putting me through school is just absurd,” she said.
It was a difficult time for her children, whom she also left behind. Dru had just turned 15 and Amber was 21. As the Chronicle reported, "Dru, in ninth grade, stayed with him when Wendy left, [ex-husband Jeffry Davis] said. Amber, who was attending college, moved back with them."
Jeffry told the Chronicle "I think she had a midlife crisis. She wanted to be around a younger crowd."
In March 2004, Wendy Davis filed for divorce with a flurry of legal documents.
In May 2005, Jeffrey Davis filed a counterpetition alleging Wendy Davis had cheated on him.
Six months later, on November 15, 2005, the court accepted the agreed divorce decree, and the Davis's now 17 year old daughter Dru remained in the custody of her father. The final decree listed both Wendy Davis and Jeffry Davis as employees of Jeffry's company, Republic Title of Texas. As part of the financial agreement, Jeffry sold the company and gave half the proceeds to Wendy.
Image source: Houston Chronicle