By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
MAXCY D. FILER. Next to the definition of the word, “persistent,” there should be a picture of Maxcy D. Filer, for he has probably sat on the California State Bar examination more times than any other living lawyer–past and/or present. But he has also been a diligent advocate for civil rights, and well known for his service to the Compton Community. Born in Mariana, Arkansas, Filer served in the US Navy from 1946 to 1949 before attending AM & N College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas before moving to Indiana where he married Blondell Burson of Elkhart, Indiana.
There Filer 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. Having a new bride and a young family, as soon as he arrived in the Southland, Filer began working at Hearns Repair Service where he assembled aquatic equipment including swim fins, diving masks, snorkels and goggles. After a couple of years, he returned to the pharmaceutical industry at Diketan Pharmaceuticals in Culver City. In addition to working the day shift at Diketan, he worked the night shift at North American Aviation, working a 16-hour day.
In 1959, Filer continued his education at Compton College majoring in Public Speaking and then went on to Los Angeles Metropolitan Junior College where he earned an Associate of Arts degree. About the same time Filer began to ease into legal work doing legal research at the L.A. City Attorney’s office, and then as an agent settling disputes, and handling negotiations and arbitration 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.
As a part of his community service, Filer initiated voter registration drives and represented the California delegation at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the president of the Compton NAACP during the 1965 Watts Rebellion and testified before the McCone Commission as to the cause of the unrest. Filer described the following as some of the root causes: the lack of affordable housing; the high rate of unemployment; and the lack of facilities for good medical care.
Being a witness to some of the inequities in the community made Filer more resilient in his efforts to raise and protect his family, and to contribute his time and energy towards community service. He was appointed to the Compton Personnel Board in 1971 where he served for six years and then was elected to the Compton City Council as the first district council member. There he had a lasting effect on the quality of life issues of the city.
In 1989, Filer authorized a controversial city ordinance banning semi-automatic rifles, which brought the city onto the NRA radar. But as controversial as it was, the ordinance was a step in the direction to curtail the violence that the city was notoriously known for, in addition to being the right thing to do.
Eventually Filer passed the State Bar Exam in 1991 and the entire city celebrated. He went from being his son’s law clerk, to his son’s law partner, and he has continued to practice law until he retired. After retirement, Filer spent his time enjoying his children and grandchildren. He received numerous honors for his life’s work including one from the Compton Fire Department for his outstanding and devoted service to the Compton community.
Maxcy Filer is the father of Maxine, Duane, Stephanie, Anthony Dennis, Tracy and Kelvin D. Filer.
KELVIN D. FILER: Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court
Judge Filer recently penned a book of poems, which he dedicated to his parents, Attorney Maxcy D. Filer and Blondell Burson Filer. He said, “I can never remember my father calling me by any other name other than ‘Scooter.’ He would even introduce me to others as “My son, ‘Scooter.'” Judge Filer went on to add in the book, “I want to say ‘thank you’ Daddy for instilling in us a commitment to always try to do what is right and to fight for justice.” And further on in the book, Judge Filer devoted an entire poem to his father, “THANX, DADDY,” which he ended with, ” … I only hope I can be half of the man I see.”
DANNY J. BAKEWELL SR.: Executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA)
“Maxcy Filer was first and foremost: a family man. He was a tireless and uncompromising advocate for the welfare of Compton and its citizens. He was truly a fighter for the rights of others, and Maxcy would confront injustice wherever it reared its ugly head. It was no wonder that he persisted beyond human endurance to become an attorney at law. That was the Maxcy Filer, who as a city councilman, who delivered for his constituents and fought for a bitter quality of life for all of Compton. He epitomized all that was good in Compton; he came STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.”
MERVYN M. DYMALLY, MA., PhD.: Director of Urban Health Institute, Charles Drew University, U.S. Congressman (Ret.)
“I became a member of congress because of Compton Councilman Maxcy Filer. He is the first one who urged me to run for Congress; no one else. As I pondered his suggestion on my way to Trinidad to visit my family, I felt a challenge and support from someone who I met in 1962 during my run for the California Assembly. Interestingly, he was on the other side when he knocked on my door to ask for support for my opposition. Out of the humorous encounter, we became best of friends. He will be missed as one of the truly committed members of the Compton City Council, and the community at large.”
CONGRESSWOMAN LAURA RICHARDSON: Democrat from California’s 37th Congressional District that includes Compton.
“Today, the City of Compton, the Civil Rights community and the nation as a whole lost a friend, activist and a true champion for justice who fought with dignity to make the City of Compton a better place to live and work, but he also taught us the value of perseverance when he passed the California Bar exam on his 48th attempt at the age of 60. His iconic legacy inspired a television sitcom “Sparks” that honored the passion that he had for the legal profession which ultimately became the career paths for both his sons Kelvin, who is a Compton Superior Court Judge, and Anthony, who is a supervising attorney for the Norwalk office of the Legal Aid Society.
I have had the privilege of knowing Kelvin for quite some time and my immediate thoughts and prayers are with him, his sibling and other family members. This is a tremendous loss for all of us, but Maxcy Filer left us with a vivid legacy to cherish and carry on.”