Raba, the third dean of St. Mary’s School of Law, served from 1946 to 1978, making him one of the longest-serving deans in American legal education. As dean, he ushered in the modern era of legal education at St. Mary’s, overseeing the law school’s initial accreditation by both the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools, the building of the law library’s holdings and the school’s move from St. Mary’s original downtown campus to its current location in 1967. In addition, he was responsible for securing funding for many of the law school’s current facilities.
“St. Mary’s School of Law exists today because of the groundwork laid by Ernest A. Raba,” said St. Mary’s Interim Dean, Charles Cantú. “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.”
Raba was born Dec. 1, 1912, the youngest of seven children born to German immigrants Ernest Wilhelm Raba and Maria Margaret Fuhrwerk. He graduated from St. Mary’s Academy High School, the forerunner of San Antonio’s Central Catholic High School, before attending St. Mary’s University, where he earned three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in 1934; a juris doctorate in 1937; and a doctorate of laws in 1977. Raba joined the law school’s part-time faculty in 1938. He then served in the Army during World War II, eventually becoming a Judge Advocate General Corps officer. He married the late Betty Vivian Myers on March 10, 1945. The couple had four children: Ernest Jr., Cindy Raba Malone, Paul and John.
He returned to St. Mary’s in 1946 as dean and remained in that post for 32 years. Raba continued to teach constitutional and civil rights law for 10 years after his retirement.
“Dean Raba 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,” said Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., President of St. Mary’s University.
Raba was a member of the San Antonio Bar Association, State Bar of Texas, Texas Bar Foundation, American Bar Association and was a former president of the St. Mary’s Alumni Association. He was named University Professor in 1988 and Dean Emeritus in 1990. Raba also served for a time as St. Mary’s Vice President for Development, securing critical private and federal funding during the major building program of the 1960s. He played a key role in securing the federal loan and grant needed to build the law center at its present location and used his personal connections to lobby for a change in the Higher Education Facilities Act.
Raba was one of a handful of St. Mary’s law alumni named among the 102 most influential Texas Lawyers of the 20th Century by Texas Lawyer magazine.
He was named Distinguished Law Graduate in 1982 and honored with the St. Mary’s University Distinguished Alumnus Award twice (1962, 1977). He was also given the St. Thomas More Award in 1988.
The family has requested that tributes made in his honor should be designated for the Ernest A. Raba Scholarship Fund at St. Mary’s law school.