Harry Hom Dow's Story


Harry Hom Dow graduates from Suffolk Law School, 1929


Dow Family Portrait

Harry Hom Dow, a son of Chinese immigrants, was raised in Massachusetts during a time when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was in place and anti-Chinese sentiment and discrimination was common. Faced with diverse challenges, he applied to Suffolk Law School in 1925 and was accepted to the evening program by Law School founder, Gleason L. Archer.

During his final year of law school, Dow held a full-time job as a translator for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration while attending classes and still managed the family laundry business. He graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1929. In that same year he became the first Chinese American to be admitted to the bar in Massachusetts. Dow served in World War II as a captain in the Army Intelligence Corps and in the Korean War.

In 1948, Harry Dow opened a private law practice, specializing in immigration law, with offices in Boston and New York City. The challenges facing Dow as a Chinese-American attorney in the following decade would prove formidable. Though the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, which had been in place in the U.S. for over sixty years, finally opened new doors of opportunity for many Chinese, the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s would stir up old prejudices anew. [1] Beginning in 1949, when China became a communist nation, scrutiny of Chinese Americans intensified, with many unfairly investigated, resulting in ruined reputations.[2]

Harry Dow came under scrutiny in 1958 when one of his clients was charged with smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. Dow became embroiled in the investigation, resulting in his indictment on charges of collusion.[3] Dow spent the next year defending the charges. Although the charges were dropped, the damage to his professional reputation proved irreparable, resulting in the closing of his private practice.[4]

Dow retired from private practice in 1963 and spent the next twenty years doing volunteer work in Boston, including serving as a legal adviser for many organizations with missions to serve the city’s less privileged citizens. He served on the boards of many organizations, including Boston Legal Services, the South End Health Center, South End Neighborhood Action Program, Inc. and Central Boston Elder Services, Inc. and advised groups including the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.

His family donated his personal papers --consisting of immigration case files from his law practice between 1951 and 1963, along with many personal family files and photos-- to the Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University. For more information, consult the collection guide and Dow's biography.


[1] Suffolk Law Alumni Magazine, Fall 2008, “A Singular Career, A Shared Ethos,” by Thomas Gearty and Meaghan Agnew, p. 14. (pdf)

[2] Ibid, p. 15.

[3] Ibid, p. 15.

[4] Ibid, p. 15

Harry Hom Dow's Story