Noted lawyer, activist Maxcy Filer succumbs
Passed bar on 48th try
An estimated 800 people paid their final respects to former Compton City Councilman and civic activist Maxcy Dean Filer during services at Love and Unity Fellowship Church in Compton.
The Marianna, Ark., native, who was 80, died following a lingering illness.
Filer, who arrived in Los Angeles after serving in the Army in Okinawa, developed a love of law that he would quietly go on to use to influence others to consider the field.
That love would also give him the fortitude and determination to keep taking the California bar exam until he passed it on his 48th try.
After leaving the Army, Filer returned to Elkhart, Ind., where he met his wife Blondell Burson. They married, eventually had six children, and he began studying dentistry.
But, the opportunities the young father heard about in California lured Filer to the Bear Flag state.
There he worked a variety different jobs in and around Los Angeles including parking lot attendant, milkman, etc. Dentistry no longer captured his attention. Instead, as he watched and then got involved in the civic unrest actions of the 1960s, Filer came to see what a crucial part attorney’s played in the struggle. That prompted him to begin studying law. He was nearly 30-years-old.
At the same time, Filer had moved his family of eight to the then nearly all-White city of Compton, and gotten involved in civic action that would help municipality’s growing Black population. This included helping form a NAACP branch in Compton and getting involved in city politics—first as a planning commissioner and then a councilman from 1976-1991.
It was during his time working as an activist, said his son Kelvin, that his dad began a practice what his son hopes becomes his legacy.
“I remember, when he was president of the NAACP and they would have meetings in our house,” Kelvin recalled. “He and other local leaders, when they would discuss strategy and what they would picket or boycott, would ask what did the attorneys say about that? Did you run it by the attorneys . . .? I immediately realized that the lawyers had an very important role (in the forefront of making change).”
Kelvin made a decision, at that moment, to follow in his dad’s footsteps to law (Maxcy was attending law school at night during the ‘60s).
“Once I expressed an interest he just nudged me, not pushed,” remembers the younger Filer with a laugh. And even though he could have gone anywhere in the country to practice, Kelvin said his goals was also to come back Compton and eventually start a legal practice with his dad and younger brother Anthony.
While that didn’t happen—Kelvin is a Superior Court Judge in Compton, and Anthony is a key Legal Aid lawyer—Maxcy’s legacy of encouraging the next generation to consider the legal field is alive and well. Not only are two nephews headed for legal careers, but so is Kelvin’s daughter, who told her grandfather the good news just days before his death.
Anybody who expressed an interest in going to law school, his father would encourage them.
“It’s been amazing,” said Kelvin about the outpouring of support and comfort that has buoyed his family since his father’s death.
“I came back to work yesterday (Tuesday) and I had 400 e-mails including at least 10 from students who want to go into the law,” said Kelvin.
What makes the Compton Court Judge feel even more blessed about his relationship with his father was that he got an opportunity to publicly express his love and admiration through a book of poetry he published last year.
“I don’t know what made me decide to do this book of poems,” mused Kelvin, who said many of the poems are about law, going to law school and his father.
“My nephew said he was reading him some (of the) poems the night before he passed.”
Maxcy Filer is survived by his wife Blondell; daughters Maxine McFarland, Stephanie Hoxey and Tracy Filer; sons Duane (wife Janice), Kelvin, Anthony (wife Dionne) and Dennis; sisters Vivian Branton, Carrie Davis and Gail Manley; 14 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
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