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The Honorable Harry Elam

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Information about The Honorable Harry Elam

Profile image of The Honorable Harry Elam

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Municipal Court Chief Justice

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Lobster, Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Caribbean Islands
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/29/1922
Birth Location:
Boston, Massachusetts

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Municipal Court Chief Justice

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Lobster, Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Caribbean Islands
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/29/1922
Birth Location:
Boston
See how The Honorable Harry Elam is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Retired Judge Harry Justin Elam was the first African American appointed to the Boston Municipal Court of Massachusetts. Subsequently, Elam became the Chief Justice of this court and later was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Prior to his judgeship years, between 1971 and 1988, he was a prominent lawyer in the city of Boston from 1952 to 1971.

Elam was born on April 29, 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts, the second child of five born to Robert H. and Blanche Lee Elam. A graduate of Boston Latin School, he attended Virginia State College between 1940 and 1942. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II from 1942 to 1946 and earned an A.B. degree from Boston University in 1948 and his J.D. degree from Boston University’s Law School in 1951. In his early years of general law practice, Elam partnered with Edward W. Brooke, who went on to become a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, the first since Reconstruction.

As a judge in both the municipal and state courts, Harry Elam maintained a deep and sensitive connection to Boston’s neighborhoods. He saw the reduction of adult and juvenile crime as a responsibility of those leading the court system and so he linked himself and fellow jurists with social, cultural, and political issues in his community. Elam was the founder and first president of the Massachusetts Black Judges Conference. He was the founder and first president of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, serving twelve years as the Center’s president. Elam also chaired the board of directors of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts for ten years.

Elam’s signature community project was Project Commitment. He served as its creator and chair for twelve years. This project brought Black judges and lawyers into public school classrooms to mentor youth. His most coveted recognition is one received in 1983, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award presented jointly by two of Boston’s venerable Black Episcopal churches.

Elam retired to Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod in Massachusetts with his wife, Barbara, have four children, Patricia, Harry, Jr., Keith, and Jocelyn.

Judge Harry Elam passed away on August 16, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Harry Elam's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his profession
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his mother's family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his father's childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his father's military service and auto shop
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his youngest sister, Harriet Elam-Thomas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers his uncle, Ralph Lee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers his mother's siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers family and church picnics as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his neighborhood in Roxbury, Boston
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his elementary schools
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers attending Boston Latin School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Harry Elam recalls choosing Virginia State College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers attending St. Mark Congregational Church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers meeting his wife, Barbara Clark
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his studies in college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers important professors at Virginia State College for Negroes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers attending Virginia State College for Negroes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers serving in the U.S. Army during World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam recalls his rejection from Harvard University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes the friends who inspired him to become a lawyer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers attending Boston University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his family's work after World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers attending Boston University School of Law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers getting married and passing the bar exam
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes practicing law with HistoryMaker Edward Brooke
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers his legal and political work in the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his political activity in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his oldest daughter, Patricia Elam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his oldest son, Harry Elam Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his third and fourth children, Keith Elam and Jocelyn Elam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his appointment to the Boston Municipal Court
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers securing George Skelly's appointment as chief probation officer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers his early work at the Boston Municipal Court
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers his term as chief justice of the Boston Municipal Court
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his civic activities
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his role models
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes fighting for the appointment of Frank Barbour, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes fighting for the appointment of Frank Barbour, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes hearing two Boston Municipal Court cases
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam recalls a difficult case, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam recalls a difficult case, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes serving on the bench of the Massachusetts Superior Court
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his post-retirement work
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes his wife's career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes memorializing Wade H. McCree at Boston Latin School, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes memorializing Wade H. McCree at Boston Latin School, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Harry Elam remembers meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Harry Elam describes increased opportunities for African American lawyers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Harry Elam reflects upon being interviewed by The HistoryMakers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Harry Elam reflects upon his life and how he hopes to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Harry Elam narrates his photographs