“All of these factors pushed me back into action,” Graf said.
Graf already had a long history of service with the national corporation.
“Actually, I was an activist before I became a lawyer,” he said.
In 1984 he began working with the guild, helping resettle Central American refugees in Austin, Texas, he said. At the time he was a computer salesman.
“And the lawyers I was working with eventually said to me, ‘Why don’t you go to law school?’ “
So, in his thirties, with a family to raise, Graf started law school in Portland, Oregon. Subsequently, he would serve as the president of the NLG chapter there, where he lived for 19 years.
Graf was involved in the legal observation.
Legal observers serve as trained witnesses and defenders of legal rights. They can be easily spotted during protests and rallies by wearing their bright green and distinctive hats that identify the attorney they are looking for.
The legal observation program initiated by Graf laid the foundation for the new chapter of the regional guild.
“The role of legal observers is accountability to the criminal justice system,” said Emily Satterwhite, 48, a Virginia Tech professor and current LO coordinator. Graf started the LO program in New River Valley, but as it grew, Satterwhite volunteered to take care of the logistics.