If you ask retired Judge Gail Chang Bohr why she has devoted most of her professional life to serving the needs of children, she suggests that it might have something to with being raised in a large family.
Bohr was the first executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, serving in that capacity for 13 years. But for some 20 years before that, she was a social worker, mostly in pediatric settings.
Reflecting on the question of why she has chosen that career path, Bohr points to her upbringing. She is the ninth of 15 children in a Chinese family that immigrated to Jamaica, where her parents opened and operated that nation’s first supermarket. As members of a large, busy family, the children had responsibility to take care of each other.
“It may be Chinese tradition,” Bohr recalls, “but children are really valued. When we’re having meals, for example, you always serve the children first. We all had a child we were in charge of.”
She came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, launched a career in social work, and then enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law when she was 43. Following three years at Faegre and Benson, she joined CLC, where she recruited pro bono lawyers — more than 270 by the time she left — to help the organization advance the rights of children.
In 2008 she ran successfully for an open seat in Ramsey County District Court, becoming the first Asian-American judge in the county.
She retired in 2014, but remains active serving on the board of directors of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and mentoring young Asian Pacific Islander American students and lawyers.