Lowell J. Myers was the nation’s best-known deaf lawyer
Lowell J. Myers (January 26,1930—November 7, 2006) lost his hearing when he was 10 years old. The son of deaf parents, Myers grew up in Chicago became a lawyer who championed the legal rights of deaf people. For many years, Lowell J. Myers was the nation’s best-known deaf lawyer, having earned a reputation as a tough, shrewd advocate.
An accomplished lip-reader from an early age, he graduated from Lake View High School and received degrees from Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago before becoming a Certified Public Accountant. He worked at Sears, Roebuck and Co. for 30 years. While at Sears, Mr. Myers took night classes and received a law degree from John Marshall. He built his legal practice in the deaf community by attending events and handing out business cards.
Despite obstacles, discouragement, and no support services, he enrolled in law school and excelled. After earning his J.D., he took on thousands of cases, including several considered unwinnable, representing many deaf and destitute clients.
Myers’ The Law and the Deaf (1964) was instrumental in getting sign-language interpreters into courtroom. An expert in Biblical law, Myers argued 17 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, and won them all. His brilliant defense of Donald Lang, who didn’t know sign language or lip reading and had almost noability to communicate, was sent to a state school for the mentally retarded after being charged with killing a prostitute in the mid-1960s.
For several years, Mr. Myers pressed for Lang’s right to a trial. The case went to the Illinois Supreme Court, which granted a trial. Because it had been so long since the murder, the charges against Lang were dropped for lack of evidence.
But in the early 1970s, Lang again was charged with murder in the slaying of a prostitute. Mr. Myers was assigned to defend him. This time Lang was found guilty and sentenced to prison.
An accountant and tax attorney, Mr. Myers worked as a legal advocate for the deaf in his spare time. He pushed for legislation to make interpreters for the deaf mandatory in court and in police interrogations. He fought for deaf people’s right to drive. And he wrote a book, “The Law and the Deaf,” on legal issues connected with the deaf community made legal history, and inspired Ernest Tidyman’s best-selling 1974 book and a 1979 TV-movie, both titled Dummy. Myers noted, “My clients like me and my opponents dislike me—which is just the way it should be!”