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School of Law Loses Three Heroes

Monday, September 15, 2008  
Posted by: Shelley Broderick
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Hilda Mason and Shelley Broderick

The School of Law lost three champions — and I lost three dear friends — over a three month period this past winter. First, Mrs. Hilda Mason passed away December 12, 2007. The bulk of this column will be devoted to telling just a little, only the headlines really, about Hilda’s and her husband Charlie’s contributions to the School of Law.

Then, February 10, 2008, Michael Maggio died. An alum from the extraordinary class of 1978, Michael directed an external Antioch School of Law clinic for many years, teaching legions of students how to be immigration lawyers, and serving as a role model as one of the very best and most successful in the business. In recent years, Michael taught as an adjunct professor and he became a major donor supporting our Center for Immigration Law and Practice (CILP). 2008 marked the 30th anniversary of Michael’s graduation from Antioch. Classmates, along with former Dean Edgar Cahn, gathered at the law offices of Maggio and Kattar to remember Michael. Together they pledged $13,000 to support CILP. Faculty recently voted to add practicum credit for work performed at CILP, and Michael’s legacy lives on in the work of our students at the Center, addressing immigration issues on behalf of our newest and most vulnerable neighbors.

Mrs. Olie Rauh reported to me the weekend before she died, that she was 94 and 7 months, and she was winding down. She died in her sleep on February 12, 2008, just hours before she planned to cast her vote for Barack Obama. Olie, widow of founding board member and legendary lawyer Joe Rauh, was a member of the board of the School of Law’s Foundation and a stalwart supporter. It was Olie’s idea to raise funds to support scholarships for our graduates to pay for the very expensive bar review course that was beyond the means of so many. Her first donation launched an effort that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and dramatically improved the School of Law’s first-time bar passage rate. Olie was also my favorite woman in the world. We spoke almost daily, and she offered wonderful advice and guidance on topics ranging from fashion to husbands, to Democratic politics [watch out for those super delegates!] to life itself [not for sissies!]. I miss her every day.

Now, let me turn to the amazing Masons.

Hilda and Charlie Mason met through their social justice activism at All Souls Church in 1957. For nearly fifty years this extraordinary couple worked tirelessly to make the world a better place. They demonstrated throughout the South in the 60s in support of civil and voting rights for all. They demonstrated here at home in support of a nuclear freeze and Statehood for the District of Columbia. They agitated, educated and legislated around efforts to ensure education for all, including children with disabilities, to preserve rent control, and to provide safe Metro transportation for the
Metropolitan D.C. area.

Without question, Hilda and Charlie’s greatest achievement was in re-establishing the Antioch School of Law as the public law school for the District of Columbia and then supporting and preserving it through the District’s financial crisis all the way to full American Bar Association accreditation for the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. It was a struggle, a labor of love, and its success took the full measure of their time, talent and treasure for twenty years. The Mason story, extending well beyond their work for the School of Law, will fill a book with many chapters. Let me provide just a few possible chapter titles:

- Hilda and Charlie Mason introduce legislation to establish Antioch as the UDC School of Law; the American Bar Association agrees to transfer full accreditation to the UDC School of Law;

- UDC’s Board of Trustees in a highly contentious split vote rejects the School of Law;

- the Masons introduce legislation establishing Antioch as the independent D.C. School of Law;

- the Masons introduce legislation to house the D.C. School of Law at the Miner School but the votes aren’t there;

- Mrs. Mason holds hearings at which one hundred witnesses including ministers, labor leaders, and former clients of the Antioch clinics testify in support of the School of Law;

- the Masons provide $100,000 in scholarships, named for civil rights heroes, to support the founding class, and every class thereafter;
- D.C. School of Law secures ABA accreditation prior to the graduation of the founding class;

- the Washington Post announces that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on D.C. will cut $100 million from D.C. budget and close the D.C. School of Law;

- the Masons organize with the School of Law to reverse the Senate closure decision;

- the Masons introduce legislation to merge the D.C. School of Law with UDC; UDC approves the merger;

- the Masons increase their annual scholarship gift to $250,000, eventually providing over $4 million in aid to students;

- the Charles N. and Hilda H.M. Mason Law Library is dedicated with 400 guests applauding their efforts;

- UDC-DCSL earns the highest level of ABA accreditation;

- Hilda Mason celebrates her 90th birthday dancing to a jazz combo at the School of Law with hundreds of friends and admirers;

- the School of Law mourns the passing of Charlie Mason, October 1, 2006, and Hilda Mason December 12, 2007.

Hilda and Charlie Mason are gone and their passing truly marks the end of an era for the District and for the School of Law. The Masons-she the granddaughter of slaves and he a Mayflower descendent–were emblematic of an era when, for the first time, black and white residents of the District came together in common cause to fight for Home Rule, to establish a public University and a transportation system, and to provide for the most vulnerable among us. It was an era of struggle for basic human rights, and the Masons were leaders in that struggle.

The Mason’s legacy lives on in the School of Law mission to recruit and enroll students from racial, ethnic and other groups traditionally under-represented at the bar and to serve the legal needs of low-income District residents to the maximum extent feasible through the legal clinics. We are meeting that mission beautifully, educating the most diverse student body in the nation. Most of our graduates become public interest, public service or public policy lawyers. Hilda and Charlie Mason cherished this School because of its focus on training lawyers who will serve our most vulnerable neighbors: children with special education needs and those who are abused or neglected; tenants fighting illegal rent increases and tenant organizations seeking to purchase and renovate their buildings; men, women and children affected or infected by the HIV virus; small business owners and non-profit organizations; seniors; and immigrants.

Our graduates, like graduates of public schools across the nation, will be the leaders of the next generation, when human rights will be assured because of the battles fought and won by valiant champions like Hilda and Charlie Mason. The School of Law will keep faith with the Masons. As Hilda would so often say, we will "keep on keeping on” in their memory.

Hilda MasonMike Rauh and his mother Olie Rauh
Wade Henderson, Amy Novick, Francesco Isgro, Michael Maggio
Charlie Mason and Olie RauhCharlie and Hlda Mason

Top left: Hilda Mason. Top right: D.C. School of Law Foundation Chair Mike Rauh with his mother Olie Rauh. Middle: Rauh Professor Wade Henderson greets, from right, Michael Maggio, ‘78, Francesco Isgro, ‘82 and and Amy Novick, '84. Bottom left: Charlie Mason with Olie Rauh. Bottom right: Charlie and Hilda Mason.

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