Suffolk Law’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) and Immigration Law Association (ILA) recently held the 2nd Annual Harry H. Dow Lecture on Immigration Law in honor of Dow, a 1929 Law School graduate and the first Chinese-American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. He 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.
Lecture speakers included: Brian Coughlin (Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy); Magaly Rojas Navarro (Clark Lau Associates); and Susan Cohen (Mintz Levin). A reception with informational tables will follow. Law School Dean Andrew Perlman has offered to match donations up to $2,500 for the Harry H. Dow Memorial Scholarship Award fund exclusively on the night of the lecture series. Donations that night will be accepted by check and online here (gift designation: Harry Dow Memorial Scholarship).
After admission to the bar in 1929, a Boston Globe reporter asked Dow about his plans, and Dow said: “I hope to champion the cause of the Chinese in this country.”
Harry H. Dow has been honored through a Law School scholarship. The Harry H. Dow scholarship award supplements tuition costs for a Suffolk Law student who has demonstrated interest in public interest and/or immigration law.Frederick 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.