Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Maxcy Filer, Persistent Tackler of Bar Exam, Dies at 80
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Maxcy D. Filer, a former Compton attorney and civic leader who gained nationwide headlines when he passed the State Bar examination after 48 tries, died yesterday at his Compton home.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kelvin Filer said his father, 80 years of age, died in his sleep around 8:30 a.m. The cause of death was not determined, but the elder Filer had been in ill health for a few years, the judge said.
Services are pending, but are likely to be held Saturday at a still-to-be determined location. Kelvin Filer said his father’s body will lie in state at Compton City Hall from tomorrow through Friday.
Maxcy Filer was a councilman there from 1976 to 1991, having previously served as a planning commissioner.
Kelvin Filer was in third grade when his father, who attended law school at Van Norman University at night while working by day, made his first stab at the bar examination. By the time he passed the test in 1991, Kelvin and his brother Anthony Filer—now an attorney at Community Legal Services in Norwalk—were both lawyers.
Born in Mariana, Ark., according to an online biography, Filer served in the U.S. Navy from 1946 to 1949 before attending Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
He later moved to Indiana where he married Blondell Burson of Elkhart. He attended Elkhart Business University while working the night shift at Whitehall Pharmaceuticals; he graduated as a dental technician in 1952, the same year he moved to Compton.
He also attended Compton College and what was then Los Angeles Metropolitan Junior College, and worked for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, and for the U.S. Department of Labor. During the 1970s, Filer did legal research and interviewed clients for Compton’s Neighborhood Legal Services, and was a senior analyst for the Community Redevelopment Agency.
He and his wife were activists in the civil rights movement, initiating voter registration drives and attending the historic 1963 March on Washington. He was president of the Compton NAACP during the events of 1965 that became known as the Watts Rebellion, and testified before the McCone Commission as to the cause of the unrest, citing a lack of affordable housing; high unemployment; and the lack of quality medical facilities in the community as among the root causes.
But he will always be remembered, his son said, as the man who would never give up trying to become a licensed attorney.
Kelvin Flier explained:
“He always said: ‘In order to become a lawyer, you have to pass the California bar examination. In order to pass the California bar examination, you have to take the California bar examination.’”
The judge said he hopes to pass to his own children and grandchildren the lesson that “you never give up pursuing your dream.”
Choking back tears, the judge said his greatest memory of his father, who worked for his sons as a paralegal before being admitted himself, will be of “watching him walk across the street to the courthouse with his briefcase in order to practice law.”
Maxcy Filer was sworn in to the State Bar on June 6, 1991 at a new admittee ceremony that included the presentation of a special pin by then-Board of Governors member—now State Bar Court Judge—Robert M. Talcott. In a speech to the new members on behalf of the State Bar, Talcott identified the qualities a lawyer must have.
He then went on to say:
“Three of these characteristics are personified by Maxcy Filer—persistence, persistence, and persistence.”
Filer once quipped to a reporter that when Talcott said that, “I pointed to my head and said, ‘Masochist, masochist, masochist.’”
His story has been included in books and magazine articles on the value of perserverence, and he was profiled in People magazine. He practiced with Kelvin Filer in Compton until his son was named a commissioner of the now-defunct Compton Municipal Court.
Filer stayed on as a sole practitioner until a few years ago, when he began having health problems that prevented him from fulfilling his responsibilities, Kelvin Filer said. He accepted probation in 2005 for failing to perform competently in a dissolution case and ceased his practice when was suspended in 2007 for failing to pass the professional ethics examination.
Besides his wife Blondell Filer and sons Kelvin and Anthony Filer, he is survived by daughters Maxine McFarland, Stephanie Hoxey, and Tracy Filer and sons Duane and Dennis Filer, along with 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company