Suffolk University Law School will launch a scholarship and lecture series named for Harry H. Dow (pdf), a 1929 Law School graduate who, although he was the first Chinese-American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, faced racism that eventually drove him out of practice.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was in place in 1904 when Dow was born, and anti-Chinese sentiment and discrimination were common. Dow lost his father at a young age, and his family was left destitute. Dow believed that knowledge of the law might have alleviated many of the problems his family faced, so he applied to Suffolk Law.
After admission to the bar in 1929, a Boston Globe reporter asked about his plans, and Dow said: “I hope to champion the cause of the Chinese in this country.”
Dow’s son Frederick will lecture on “Fortunes of my Father” at the Harry H. Dow Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 6 p.m., in the Law School’s first-floor function room.
Dow also is being honored through a new Law School scholarship. The Harry H. Dow scholarship award will supplement tuition costs for a current Suffolk Law student who has demonstrated interest in public interest and/or immigration law.
"Harry Dow is an inspiration for our students and alumni,” said Suffolk Law School Dean and Professor of Law Camille Nelson. “Like many of our current students, Dow overcame significant obstacles to earn his law degree and ultimately become a leader in his field. In keeping with Suffolk tradition, Dow used his education to give back to the Chinese immigrant community from which he came as well as other groups traditionally underserved by mainstream law.”
The younger Dow’s lecture will focus on racism and discrimination in the 1940s through early 1960s. Dow said that his father was targeted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly helping Chinese immigrants come to the United States illegally—by representing a travel agent. Though a grand jury cleared Harry Dow of wrongdoing, his son said the damage to his reputation was irreparable. In 1963, when Harry Dow was in his 50s, he quit private practice.
“He couldn’t revive his practice after that. Our family was impoverished,” said Frederick Dow, a senior civil rights investigator for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights who previously served as executive director for the Asian American Resource Workshop in Boston.
After retiring from his law practice, Harry Dow was drawn into community affairs in Boston’s South End. He used his legal background to “argue with the powers-that-be for more resources for the community. And that, in a way, obviously rubbed off,” said his son, who also serves as a trustee for the Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund, which provides legal services internship opportunities for low-income bilingual and bicultural Asian-American students.
Dow’s personal life and career are well documented in 28 boxes of files donated by his family to the Moakley Archive and Institute in 2008. The collection, which has been reviewed by archives staff but not yet made public, provides insight into Dow’s work with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, his immigration law practice, and his work with Boston’s community organizations. Many of his legal files showcase the struggles of Chinese families trying to reunite in the United States.
The Harry H. Dow Lecture on Immigration Law is presented by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association in collaboration with the Immigration Law Students Association, Immigration Law Clinic, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Alumni Engagement Office, Moakley Archive and Institute, and Rappaport Center for Law & Public Service.