Ernest A. Raba

new graduate, Ernest Raba,
1934 | Courtesy of St. Mary's
University Diamondback yearbook

ERNEST ALOYSIUS RABA was born to parents, Ernst William Raba and Maria Margaret Fuhrwerk, in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas on December 1, 1912. Ernest was the youngest of seven children. Ernest’s father and mother were both immigrants from Austria and Germany, respectively. Ernest’s father worked as a notable photographer and artist in San Antonio. Ernest grew up in San Antonio and attended primary school in his parish, St. Joseph Parochial School. After graduating from his high school, St. Mary’s Academy (a forerunner to Central Catholic High School), he attended St. Mary’s University also in San Antonio.[1]

While attending St. Mary’s University as an undergraduate, Raba was a very active and involved student in the university. In 1933, he served as president of the Chaminade Catholic Action Club and also as the president of the International Relations club. He graduated summa cum laude in 1934. That same year, Ernest proceeded to study as part of the very first freshman class of the new St. Mary’s School of Law. He graduated at the top of his class and earned his juris doctorate in 1937. Following his graduation, Raba began practicing law while teaching as a part-time adjunct professor at St. Mary’s. Throughout his teaching career, he taught courses on agency, personal property, sales, and conflicts of laws. By 1939, Raba began teaching full-time along with Leslie C. Merrem, Dixon Gulley, and four other part-time instructors.[2]

graduating class at Judge Advocate General's School with
Raba in the fourth row | Courtesy of Library of Congress [13]

 

Ernest registered for the military draft on October 19, 1940. He continued to teach as a professor at St. Mary’s until October 1942 when the School of Law was closed and he enlisted in the U.S. Army. In August 1943, Raba graduated from Judge Advocate General’s School at University of Michigan and was then commissioned as a lieutenant. The Judge Advocate General’s School, located in Ann Arbor, operated from 1942 to 1946 and transformed hundreds of civilian lawyers into Army judge advocates. After his graduation, Raba served as a staff judge advocate in the Judge Advocate General Corps in both Camp Claiborne and Camp Polk in Louisiana. While stationed here, Ernest met Betty Vivian Myers. They married on March 10, 1945, in Fort Polk, Louisiana.[3]

When the law school reopened and he was placed on inactive duty, Raba returned for the beginning of term on January 28, 1946. Soon thereafter, Very Rev. Walter F. Golatka announced Raba as the third dean of St. Mary’s Law School in February 1946. During his first semester as dean, the School of Law had an unusually high enrollment of students, most of whom were veterans. Justice James R. Norvell and members of the San Antonio Bar Association were particularly happy with Raba’s appointment because of his impressive early career and close ties to the Bar Association. The president of the Association, Jesse I. Edwards, said, “The interests of the San Antonio Bar Association in the Law School of St. Mary’s is not only very natural but thoroughly understood by the University, the Bench, and Bar, and the appointment of Mr. Ernest A. Raba as dean of the School of Law is very gratifying to me personally and certainly to the members of my profession.”[4]

newly appointed Dean Raba, about
1946 | Courtesy of St. Mary
University's The Rattler newspaper

As his first action as dean, Dean Raba obtained accreditation for the law school from the American Bar Association in Spring of 1948. This was particularly notable as an early “win” while the Law School rebounded from its closure during the War. Because of this action, the School of Law was recognized by all state and national academic agencies and students’ credits became universally transferable. Dean Raba also helped the Law School gain membership in the Association of American Law Schools. In October 1949, Phi Delta Phi international, the oldest professional legal fraternity and now honor society, inducted St Mary’s Law School. The organization also recognized Raba as an honorary member. The Law School gained notable recognition in the post-war years following Raba’s appointment. On average, 92 percent of the Law School graduates passed the Texas Bar examinations (with the entire class passing some years). Some St. Mary’s graduates excelled with the highest Texas Bar examination scores. Under Dean Raba’s administration, the faculty and students started publishing the St. Mary’s Law Journal in 1969.Additionally, many of the Law School’s faculty under Raba’s deanship taught part-time while practicing local law. This, in addition to legal aid clinics and practice court sessions, gave students opportunities to engage with the San Antonio legal system while studying at St. Mary’s.[5]

Dean Raba actively used his connections to better the law school. He often reached out to alumni and other local organizations for involvement and donations. In some cases, the Law School actively lobbied attorneys to employ students part-time or networked with government agencies to provide career opportunities for law graduates. Additionally, Dean Raba established relationships with judges of the Texas Supreme Court. This created opportunities for law students to work as briefing attorneys and make networking connections.[6]

In early October 1963, the Law School sponsored a conference on land development transactions and urban planning in San Antonio. About a year later, Very Rev. Louis J. Blume appointed Dean Raba as the Vice President for Development to direct a two-year building and expansion program. Raba secured financial funding to build a larger library, a classroom building, and faculty office in 1967 by working closely with Phil Kazen of Laredo, Texas Governor John Connally, and U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. This allowed the law school to move from downtown San Antonio to the University Campus. Additionally, Raba assisted in obtaining financing for other University buildings like the University library, a new student union building, and the business school building. Raba said of this project it would be “probably the largest and most comprehensive [project] ever launched by St. Mary’s.”[7]

original sketch for law center on the Woodlawn campus |
Courtesy of St. Mary's University School of Law: A Personal
History
by Ernest A. Raba

On November 22, 1966, groundbreaking began at the main campus of St. Mary’s University. In 1967, the Law School moved to the Woodlawn campus. The new Law School was dedicated on October 24, 1968. According to the Barrister News publication, “The move from downtown to the new center in [January 1968] marked the realization of a dream and the end result of years of hard work and worry by Ernest Raba, Dean of the Law School and The Very Reverend Louis J. Blume, President of St. Mary’s University.” The Law Center has been recognized not only for its architectural beauty but for its utility and professionalism. And according to Raba, this renovation allowed the law school enrollment to double. St. Mary’s University’s President, Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., said of Dean Raba, “[He] was responsible for building the modern law school at St. Mary’s, both physically and academically, and his commitment to the mission of the Marianists and St. Mary’s was evident in his dedication to the school. He is responsible for charting a course for the law school that ensured an outstanding legal education was open to all qualified students.”[8]

Archbishop Jurey, Jr., Dean Raba & Betty Raba at event
| Courtesy of St. Mary's University School of Law: A
Personal History
by Ernest A. Raba

Dean Raba was a member of the San Antonio Bar Association, State Bar of Texas, Texas Bar Foundation, and American Bar Association. He was honored as University Professor in 1988 and Dean Emeritus in 1990. He also served as president of the St. Mary’s Alumni Association. Dean Raba actively wanted to increase the membership of the association, especially including recently returned veterans. According to a newspaper he said, “We must build now toward a greater St. Mary’s… and we can’t do it with the small number of members that are in the Ex-Students now.” He was named as one of the most influential Texas Lawyers of the 20th Century in Texas Lawyer magazine. Dean Raba also won many awards including the Distinguished Law Graduate in 1982, St. Mary’s University Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1962 and 1977, and the St. Thomas More Award in 1988. In 1977, Dean Raba received an honorary doctorate of law.[9]

Raba towards end of deanship, about
1977 | Courtesy of St. Mary University's
The Rattler newspaper

Dean Raba was very devoted to his students, even if they were undergrads. He continued teaching as a professor while acting as dean. While his office was located in the “downtown” location, he would stand in his office doorway and greet students by name as they entered the building. Dean Raba also supported student clubs like the Barristers Law Club and suggested “periodic luncheons” to bring together students, professors, and practicing attorneys. Additionally, the School of Law was much more diverse than other Texas schools during Raba’s deanship including women and Mexican-Americans.[10]

Dean Raba was one of the longest serving deans of American legal education. He served as the dean of St. Mary’s School of Law for thirty-two years from 1946 to 1978. After his retirement, Raba continued to teach constitutional and civil rights law for an additional ten more years. Upon Raba’s deanship retirement, Leon Jaworski wrote, “I have known Ernest for many years; he has always been a cherished friend, and will always continue to be. His personal achievements have been significant; he has shepherded a local school to national prominence, actively participated in civic and political development, and raised a family to continue the tradition of good citizenship.” Raba and his wife, Betty, had four children: Ernest Jr., Cindy, Paul, and John.[11]

Dean Raba passed away in his home on December 3, 2007, at age 95 due to natural causes. He was buried at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum in San Antonio. St. Mary’s Interim Dean, Charles Cantú, said of Raba, “St. Mary’s School of Law exists today because of the groundwork laid by Ernest A. Raba… He devoted his life to fulfilling this physical plan. There are many successful lawyers practicing today only because Dean Raba saw their potential and took a chance by admitting them to law school. His death creates a big gap in the fabric of legal education.”[12]

Dean Ernest A. Raba | Courtesy of A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946-1978),
St. Mary's University School of Law
by Aloysius A. Leopold


[1] Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Birth Certificate for Ernest Aloysius Raba, 01 Dec. 1912, certificate 41667, Tex. Dep’t of State Health Servs., Vital Statistics Unit.

The Ernst Wilhelm Raba Photograph Collection in The Portal to Texas History, Univ. of North Tex. Libraries.

Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920: Texas, Bexar County, San Antonio, Sheet 22B, U.S. Census Bureau, (reflecting Ernest Raba, Jr. in household of Ernest Raba)

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 3 (2008).

[2] Ernest Raba Elected Chief of Chaminade Catholic Action Club, The Rattler, Oct. 12, 1933, at 6.

The School of Law, St. Mary’s University La Vibora (1939) at 27.

 St. Mary’s Graduate, The Rattler, Sep. 29, 1938, at 3.

New Law School Dedication Set for October 24th, The Rattler, Oct. 16, 1968, at 1.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 3 (2008).

St. Mary’s Offers Complete Service to Future Barristers, The Rattler, Apr. 27, 1939, at 4.

[3]Ernest Aloysius Raba, 1942 U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, Nat’l Archives and Records Amin.

Earnest Raba Is Appointed Dean of ‘U’ Law School, The Rattler, Feb. 15, 1946, at 1.

Charles E. Cantú, An Oral History of St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s L.J, Apr. 18, 2019, at 329.

Library of Congress, Scrapbooks, 1943-1946, The Judge Advocate General’s School U. S. Army University of Mich. Law School Ann Arbor, Michigan, Loc.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 3 (2008).

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Raba Returns to Law School Teaching Staff, The Rattler, Jan. 23, 1946, at 1.

Ernest A. Raba, Porter Loring Mortuaries, (Dec. 6, 2007).

Friends Hear That Lt. Raba Engaged, The Rattler, Feb. 16, 1945, at 1.

[4]Raba Returns to Law School Teaching Staff, The Rattler, Jan. 23, 1946, at 1.

Earnest Raba Is Appointed Dean of ‘U’ Law School, The Rattler, Feb. 15, 1946, at 1.

Charles E. Cantú, An Oral History of St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s L.J., Apr. 18, 2019, at 329.

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Justice Norvell Keynotes Law Center Groundbreaking, Barrister News, Winter 1966-67, at 4.

[5]Law Luncheon Celebrates American Bar Acceptance, The Rattler, Mar. 19, 1948, at 1.

Law Grads Boast Best Bar Exam Record in Texas, The Rattler, May 17, 1952, at 2.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 3 (2008).

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Crossing the Bar, The Rattler, Nov. 22, 1946, at 7.

University Law School Installs International Legal Fraternity, The Rattler, Oct. 28, 1949, at 1.

Fraternity News: Phi Delta Phi, Barrister News, October 1964, at 5.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 5 (2008).

Law Grads Boast Best Bar Exam Record in Texas, The Rattler, May 17, 1952, at 2.

St. Mary’s Again Scores 100% on Bar Exams, Barrister News, Summer 1953, at 1.

[6] Open Letter to St. Mary’s University Law School Alumni, Barrister News, Spring 1956, at 3.

Federal Aid to Education, Barrister News, Spring 1955, at 1.

Lawyers Circularized for Student Jobs, Barrister News, Summer 1956, at 5.

FBI Looking for Law Graduates, Barrister News, Fall 1955, at 1.

Charles E. Cantú, An Oral History of St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s L.J., Apr. 18, 2019, at 335.

[7]Land Talks Set, The Rattler, Sep. 27, 1963, at 3.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 5 (2008).

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

[8] Justice Norvell Keynotes Law Center Groundbreaking, Barrister News, Winter 1966-67, at 4.

Charles E. Cantú, An Oral History of St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s L.J., Apr. 18, 2019, at 323, n.15.

New Law Center, Barrister News, Winter 1968, at 3.

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

[9] Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Raba to Head Ex-Students, The Rattler, Feb. 21, 1947, at 1.

[10] St. Mary’s University, St. Mary’s University Diamondback (1955) at 96.

Aloysius A. Leopold, A Tribute to Ernest A. Raba, Dean (1946 – 1978), St. Mary’s University School of Law, 40 St. Mary’s L.J. 5 (2008).

Earnest Raba Is Appointed Dean of ‘U’ Law School, The Rattler, Feb. 15, 1946, at 1.

Charles E. Cantú, An Oral History of St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s L.J., Apr. 18, 2019, at 317, n.15.

[11] Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

Leon Jaworski, A Tribute to Dean Ernest A. Raba, St. Mary’s L.J., 1978-1979, at xvii.

Summer Changes, Witan, Sep. 1, 1979, at 1.

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

[12]U.S. Soc. Sec. Admin., Soc. Sec. Death Index, 3 Dec. 2007,  (indicating Ernst Aloysius Raba’s death as Dec. 3, 2007).

United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014, database with images, FamilySearch, Ernest A Raba, Texas, United States, 05 Dec. 2007; from “Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1977 - Today),” database, GenealogyBank, (2014) http://www.genealogybank.com; citing San Antonio Express-News, born-digital text.

Ernest A. Raba, Porter Loring Mortuaries, (Dec. 6, 2007).

Ernest Aloysius Raba, Find A Grave.

Law School Dean Emeritus Ernest Raba Dies, St. Mary’s Univ. (Dec. 6, 2007).

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