The eyes of the nation were on the recent public unveiling of The Embrace, the moving new memorial on Boston Common celebrating legendary civil rights leader the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
The dedication of the 19-ton bronze monument—created by artist Hank Willis Thomas to capture a hug shared by the couple after Dr. King won the Nobel peace prize in 1964—was broadcast live on Boston television and drew members of Congress and state leaders, as well as featured speakers Martin Luther King III and his family.
For Frederick Dow and his family, the day was also a jubilant one. Their late father, Harry Hom Dow, JD ’29, the first Chinese American to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, was one of a special group of 69 Boston-area civil rights leaders honored with permanent plaques within the 1965 Freedom Plaza at the base of the memorial.
The Embrace sits less than a mile from the from the city’s South End neighborhood where Dow grew up and later, as an immigration attorney and respected community activist, battled racial discrimination.
The oldest son of a widowed mother, Dow attended Suffolk University Law School at night while helping to run his family’s laundry business. After graduating from Suffolk Law in 1929, Dow assisted new immigrants in New York City suffering under the US government’s noxious Chinese Exclusion Act, and went on to fight for his country in both World War II and Korea, before returning to Boston.
Frederick Dow said his family was both humbled and deeply honored to be a part of the historic King Embrace memorial sculpture unveiling and the ceremony honoring his father, Harry Hom Dow, who died in 1985. “Our hope is that the Freedom Plaza and Harry Dow's inclusion will inspire future generations of civil rights leaders from the Asian American community, as well as those at Suffolk University.”
Dow’s legacy on the Suffolk campus, with numerous buildings that look out onto The Embrace, has remained vigorous over the years. The Dow Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually and the annual Harry Dow Lecture Series event at the Law School, co-sponsored by Suffolk’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and the Rosenberg Institute for East Asian Studies, is heading into its tenth year. Dow’s personal papers and files from his immigration cases were donated by his family to the permanent collection of the Moakley Archive and Institute.
“Harry Dow's story is about a celebrated life evolving from being a beneficiary to a benefactor,” said Justina Chu, a retired Suffolk Law administrator, who worked closely with the Dow family on campus events for many years. “Harry benefited from Gleason Archer's inclusive, nondiscriminatory acceptance to the Law School, and gave back to the community in the same inclusive, nondiscriminatory spirit,” she said.
Nearly a century after their patriarch graduated from Suffolk Law and broke barriers by becoming the first Chinese American attorney in the state, Dow’s family hopes his permanent spot in the shadow of a monument that is quickly becoming an international tourist attraction will introduce Harry Hom Dow to a new generation.
“We trust his story will resonate and be shared widely as people come to contemplate the work, struggles, and sacrifices of the freedom fighters honored in the plaza,” Frederick Dow said.
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