Professor Henry McGee, Jr.

On March 17, Professor Emeritus Henry W. McGee, Jr., who was the first tenured faculty member of color at Seattle University School of Law, passed away at age 91. The entire Seattle U Law community extends its heartfelt condolences to his family.

Professor McGee joined the faculty in 1994 after many years at UCLA School of Law, where he achieved emeritus status. Prior to this, he had a long and distinguished career as a prosecutor, a litigator in private practice, and a regional director of legal services for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1965, during the Freedom Summer, Professor McGee represented members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who had been arrested for helping register African American voters.

What follows is a collection of remembrances written by his former colleagues and students celebrating the many ways that Professor McGee has touched their lives and changed the world for the better for so many.

To contribute your own remembrance of Professor Shapiro, email 1-3 paragraphs with your name, title, and affiliation to: This page will be continuously updated as your submissions are received.

Note: Submissions have been edited for clarity and length.

Laura Anglin

Senior Law Clerk

Chief Justice Steven González, Washington Supreme Court

I was never lucky enough to take a class from Prof. McGee. But I was privileged to hear him speak several times. We both attended a talk given by the former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards Arthur Fletcher. Fletcher was memorable for many reasons including the fact he was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards under Richard Milhouse Nixon and the fact he is sometimes called the “father of affirmative action.”

During the talk, Professor McGee exclaimed, “How could it come to pass the United States could be to the right of Richard Nixon?” (Prof. Henry McGee, October 7, 1998) Prescient words I have thought of many times since.

Not long afterwards, I went to a talk on the development of the uniform code of military justice, if I recall correctly. Whatever the ostensible subject, John La Fond and Dave Boerner were sparring a bit about what a just code should take account of. Prof. McGee broke in with, “Most people, including most Americans, think that Americans look like Dave Boerner.” (Feb. 10, 1999) Prof. Boerner is a tall white guy who looks like his family has a Germanic or British coat of arms somewhere. It was one of those lightning bolt moments for me, I had never consciously released that there was an archetypal American riding in my head and, indeed, he looked like Dave Boerner. For all that I professed belief in a multiracial pluralistic democracy, deep down, I too believed that Americans looked like Dave Boerner, I’ve been working on that ever since.

Both times, with a few words, Prof. McGee put his thumb on something fundamental that I – we – need to reckon with. He did good work. Rest in power, professor.

Thomas Antkowiak

Professor, Seattle University School of Law

I’ll never forget Prof. Hank McGee’s spark, his warmth, and joy, a joy that overcame the many obstacles he undoubtedly faced as an African-American lawyer and professor in the 60s and beyond, I was so grateful to receive his warm welcome when I arrived at Seattle University. We shared many passions: Latin America, civil rights, music. I’ll cherish his memory as an exceptional colleague and friend.

Margaret Chon

The Donald and Lynda Horowitz Chair for the Pursuit of Justice

Seattle University School of Law

"The Hankster” (my fond nickname for Hank) was an important mentor, role model, and father figure to me (and a grandfather figure to my kids, especially my daughter Chloe). He cared so much for peoples’ well-being, not just their fancy degrees. I have kept all of his hand-written notes over the years to me, which he would leave in my faculty mailbox along with a newspaper clipping of possible interest or a classical music recording. And he had many amazing stories, such as when he was a journalism student in a newsroom the day that Brown v. Board of Education was issued (the machine that printed out wire stories rang five times, which meant the story was an historic, off-the-charts event). Hank also had a sense of humor about himself. He was fond of saying that if he knew as much about the law as he did about classical music, he would be teaching at Harvard Law. I was not alone in my frequent bemusement over his many phone messages, which he would leave (starting with “McGee here” and often abruptly ending) at all hours of the day (and night) whenever he wanted to discuss something urgently.

Hank was hired at Seattle U Law just before I was also hired in the mid-90’s. We integrated the law school faculty as its first two tenured faculty of color. When we were hired, Seattle University had just a handful of faculty of color. It was not an easy time to be a minority faculty member but knowing that Hank was just down the hall made it better. I once knocked on his door for advice and found him taking violin lessons from one of his students! He had an appetite for music, for law and politics, and for life in general that was simply exuberant and even overwhelming at times.

Hank was part of a generation of civil rights activists and icons, such as the late Derrick Bell and the late Leon Higginbotham, Jr., all of whom I have had the deep privilege of knowing and working with. All of them had incredible drive, intellect, and integrity, which allowed them to achieve so many things despite the many obstacles placed in their way. Yet Hank wore his activism lightly albeit seriously. His scholarship on housing segregation, displacement, and gentrification on the west coast was pioneering, and yet he was a humble warrior.

To the Hankster: Chloe and I miss you very much and will always remember your kindness and care for us above all.

Kelly Kunsch

Librarian Emeritus, Seattle University School of Law

Hank was a tireless advocate for diversifying the law school faculty. For those interested, here is the law school viewbook from the first year of his inclusion:

Seattle University School of Law, "Bulletin 1996-1997" (1996)

Ryan S. Miller ’07

I am deeply saddened that this brilliant light has left us. His voice echoed genius in the classroom and his instrument’s melodies eloquently resounded through the symphony halls. I am blessed to have been present in both places to bask in his presence. Godspeed, Professor McGee.

Kasha Roseta ’14

Program Attorney, Equity and Civil Rights Office

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

I began my legal career as a young-ish queer former middle school teacher who wanted to have a big impact on the world, but who wasn't quite sure how to do it. When I met Professor Shapiro, I was immediately drawn to her, not only because of who she was personally, but also because of her professional impact and accomplishments. I mean, one of the cases we studied in my first family law class with her was Anderson v. King County—a case that was of tremendous interest to me, as someone who wanted very much to be able to marry my same-sex partner here in Washington. I wanted to emulate Professor Shapiro, by seeking out a legal career focusing on issues of social and personal significance.

Exactly seven years ago today, I accepted a position to work in the Equity and Civil Rights Office at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Accepting this job was a direct result of conversations I had with her about my career path and the worries I had about working so hard in law school, only to decide after it was all over that I didn't actually want to practice law. Her assurances—that it was more than okay to use my JD in a non-traditional way, and in fact, that there was a need for lawyers to work in other roles—led me to the work I now do, which is a far better fit for me than litigation ever would have been. As an example, one of my primary responsibilities is to provide training to school district administrators and educators on their obligations under state civil rights laws as those laws relate to and protect transgender and nonbinary students. In other words, I get paid to help school districts learn how not to discriminate and to help ensure that families and students understand their civil rights. How amazing is that?

Professor Shapiro was the wisest of sounding boards, the most constructive of feedback-providers, and the best of humans. I will be forever grateful to her for her kindness, her trailblazing-ness, her wit, and for her impact on me. Thank you for sharing her with the SU Law community. May the coming days, months, and years allow you the space and time to grieve your immense loss, but also to celebrate the magnitude of the gifts and legacies she gave so freely.

Dean Spade

Professor, Seattle University School of Law

Julie Shapiro welcomed me with such warmth when I was a candidate at SU Law and when I joined the faculty. She and Shelly were generous to me beyond measure from the start. Julie was ahead of her peers, even within the lesbian and gay legal advocacy world, when it came to being an ally to trans people. She was a force of kindness and grounded thoughtfulness on our faculty. Her memory is a blessing, and inspires me to carry forward, in whatever ways I can, her spirit of kindness and generosity and her dedication to justice.

Marc Steinberg

Rupert and Lillian Radford Chair in Law and Professor of Law

Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law

I was a student in two of Professor McGee’s classes at UCLA. He was a great professor and became a mentor. His sage advice has been very useful in my career. In addition, he wrote an excellent letter of recommendation for me that helped me receive a full tuition fellowship for my LL.M. at Yale. He also provided wonderful advice as I commenced my teaching career and was a huge supporter through the years. I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity and privilege to know Professor Hank McGee. With my deep appreciation, thank you Hank.

Stephanie Wilson

Law Library Associate Director of Reference Services and Outreach

Seattle University School of Law

I met Julie when I first joined SU Law as a reference librarian. I worked closely with her on the research for In re LB and Andersen v. King County. We became friends, and she was instrumental in creating the family I have now. There are many things I loved about Julie: her intellect, her open curiosity (about birds, plants, emotions, people, law, society, time, childhood, etc.), and her honesty at faculty meetings. But one thing I loved most was her sense of humor. She could be really funny, and this drew people closer to her. Julie loved making connections: between ideas, theories, and, most of all, between people. With her passing, we are all less connected. She is missed beyond belief.

Tim Woolsey

Office of Tribal Attorney, Suquamish Tribe

As a 1L seriously questioning my decision to attend law school, I attended a forum on environmental law classes offered at Seattle University Law School (still located in Downtown Tacoma at that time). Professor McGee was on the panel discussing the curriculum, but more broadly, putting his own Hank McGee-spin on things. First appearing disorganized, his quirky yet cogent take on environmental and land use law within the American constitutional system spoke to me like nothing I had learned in my first year of law school. I walked out of that forum knowing, immediately, that I had to enroll in Professor McGee’s land use class. More importantly, I knew that he was someone I needed to engage to foster a deeper relationship. For me, he became the link between an antiquated and confusing system of law and notions of truth and justice that I sought to pursue as a lawyer.

Later, I would work with Uncle Hank via independent study and publication of a law review article. Spending lots of time with him was inspiring. Getting to know his story of success and his unyielding focus on truth and justice, made me into a better person and lawyer. Following graduation, he continued to support me in my career working as a lawyer for Indian Tribes.

He was always interesting. One time we went to see the re-release of Apocalypse Now! at Cinerama in downtown Seattle. To a silent theater following a trailer for what appeared to be a schlock Hollywood action flick, he exclaimed, “that looks like a ‘Must Miss!’”

Hank McGee is truly one of my heroes!

Memorial Service for Professor Emeritus Henry McGee Jr.

Date: Saturday, May 4, 2024

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Location: Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

Remarks by Seattle University Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Natasha Martin and Professor Quinton Morris.

An ice cream social will follow the service.

Remembering Professor Emeritus Henry W. McGee, Jr.

Dean Varona Message – Henry “Hank” McGee, Jr. (PDF)