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Harry Low, first Asian American judge in San Francisco, dies at 90

Harry Low in 2018

San Francisco’s first Asian American judge, Harry Low, died Thursday at 90 in San Francisco, his family confirmed to the SF Standard. He was surrounded by his wife of 69 years, Mayling Low, and daughter Kathy Low and sons Larry and Allan Low.

Low graduated from UC Berkeley law school in 1955, at a time when there were a total of five Asian American attorneys in the State of California. He worked at the California Attorney General’s office from 1956 to 1966, when then-Governor Pat Brown appointed him to San Francisco Municipal Court, making him the first Asian American judge in the city. He was named a Superior Court judge in 1974, and was later appointed to the California Court of Appeal. He retired in 1992.

A 2007 AsianWeek article noted that Low had been named “San Franciscan of the Year” and described him as someone who “made public service and community volunteerism the hallmark of his contributions.”

Lillian Sing, a retired judge from San Francisco Superior Court and the first female Asian American judge in Northern California, said she always “looked up to him,” saying Low was very helpful, considerate, compassionate and “really good looking.”

“I will really miss him terribly”, Sing said. “Judge Harry Low is well-respected by his colleagues on the bench, in the judicial community, and in the Asian American community.”

Low was honored at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2018 during the Asian American Heritage Month celebration.

His son, Allan Low, is a lawyer and an activist in the Chinese community, and a former member of the Recreation and Park Commission.

Han Li can be reached at