Chinese American Hero: Harry W. Low

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This is Week 13 of AsianWeek’s salute to Chinese American Heroes, and this week, we are going to honor and recognize our “Judges.” Not many Chinese Americans have become Judges, but a significant few have,
leading the way and setting examples for what we hope will be many more of them in future.

America has produced many outstanding Chinese American lawyers. It is from this profession in which Chinese Americans are holding more and more prestigious positions that we look forward to more judicial
appointments soon. National organizations such as the OCA and the Committee of 100 have voiced their concerns and displeasure over the shortage Chinese American judges, especially in the Federal judicial
system. Issues of discrimination, perception of Asian Americans as “others” rather than Americans, and the lack of much organized support in favor of Asian American judicial candidates all play a role in this.
Unfortunately, a Chinese American or Asian American nomination to the United States Supreme Court may still be decades away.

Who are our outstanding judges? First, from the San Francisco Bay Area, we have Judge Harry Low, who served on the bench for over 25 years. He received judicial appointments from both political parties in
California, a notable feat where bitter disagreement between the political parties is the norm. With his impeccable reputation for honesty and clean politics, he was appointed as California State Insurance Commissioner in 2000 to restore integrity to the scandal plagued office.

Our second outstanding individual is Judge Ming W. Chin, formerly a Captain in the US Army who served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. Judge Chin was appointed a Justice
with the California Supreme Court in 1996. He is a recognized authority on DNA evidence.

Our third hero is Judge Delbert Wong who was the first Asian American to graduate from Stanford Law School. He served as a navigator during WW II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air
Medals. Only two others out of his class of 18 navigators completed their full 30 mission requirement. The rest were either captured or killed in action. After the war, he served more than five decades in our
judicial system.

For more information about outstanding Chinese American heroes and heroines please visit: www.chineseamericanheroes.orgName in English: Harry W. Low

harry-lowName in Chinese: 刘百昌 [劉百昌]
Name in Pinyin:
Liú Bóchāng
Gender: Male
Birth Year: 1931
Birth Place: Oakdale, California
Philanthropy: Yes

Profession(s): Attorney, Judge, State Insurance Commissioner

Education: BA, 1952, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley; JD, 1955, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley

Award(s): 2002 Spirit of Excellence Award, American Bar Association; 2000 Judge Lowell Jensen Public Service Award, Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Berkeley; 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award for extraordinary contributions to the legal profession, Boalt Hall Alumni Association, UC Berkeley.

Contribution(s): Judge Harry Low agrees with the statement that he’s been a fireman during his career, being called repeatedly in the aftermath of government scandals to bring credibility back to the government process and to solve seemingly intractable problems by politicians of every stripe. He was the first Asian American to serve on San Francisco’s Municipal Court and was a pioneer in other judicial offices. After graduating from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall in 1955, Low served as a deputy attorney general under Attorney General Edmund “Pat” Brown. In 1966, by then California Governor Brown appointed Low to the San Francisco Municipal Court. Governor Ronald Reagan elevated Judge Low to the Superior Court in 1974. In every position Judge Low has been particularly active in pushing for more minorities entering careers previously denied to them through discrimination, particularly notable was the fact that he was appointed by President Carter as Chair of the Board of Visitors of West Point from 1977 to 1981. Governor Jerry Brown raised Judge Low to the First District Court of Appeal in 1982, a position that he retired from as presiding judge in 1992. From 1989 to 1990 he was head of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. In 1992 he was appointed to chair the San Francisco Police Commission in a particularly turbulent time which saw four men as police chief, two of them resigning in disgrace.

In retirement Low worked as a mediator and arbitrator with the Judicial Arbitration Mediation Services (JAMS) particularly in cases involving the San Francisco Chinatown community. In 2000, after the disgraced resignation of the incumbent, Judge Low was suddenly appointed to become California’s State Insurance Commissioner due to his reputation for honesty and clean politics, becoming the first Asian American holder of the office. His appointment was confirmed unanimously by the California State Legislature. Judge Low declined to run for the office in his own right and retired in 2003 to resume his arbitration and mediation practice.

Philanthropy: Judge Low helped found the Chinese International School, offering bilingual education and a college-track education to deprived students. He is a board member of the California Healthcare Foundation and the Laguna Honda Hospital Foundation. He is also with Senior Tutors for Youth that helps provide counseling and education to troubled youth.

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