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Lady of the Month: Barabra Ann Rowan
Barbara Ann Rowan, a transplanted New Yorker practicing law in Virginia, was attending an Alexandria Bar Association event in 1982 when a prominent defense lawyer used a racial slur in delivering an after-dinner speech to more than 100 people. The incident helped spur the formation of a new bar group, the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association. Rowan was born on Sept. 6, 1938, in Upper Manhattan, the only child of Norman Rowan and Clara (Obey) Rowan. Her father, a naturalized citizen from Jamaica, was an accountant; her mother, from Philadelphia, assisted him in his work, Rowan wrote in a brief personal history. She was raised in Harlem, and said she grew up “nurtured and surrounded” by a West Indian community of friends and family and other relatives. She graduated from Dalton in 1956 and from Barnard College in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. Also fluent in Italian, she worked as an interpreter in the city’s family courts while attending New York University’s evening law school program, receiving her law degree in 1968. Her hiring by the U.S. attorney’s office, then led by Whitney North Seymour Jr., was serendipitous. As she recalled in an interview last summer with Lisa Zornberg — a former criminal division chief who is writing a book on women who served in the office — a judge, after ruling in Rowan’s favor, asked whether she might want to join the prosecutor’s office. She said yes, and received a call from Seymour’s No 2. Rowan was the first Black woman to be appointed prosecutor in the Southern District. “She was so proud when she got the job.” Rowan’s hiring helped break ground for women generally in the Southern District, especially in its criminal division, where only two or three women had preceded her. Rowan spent three years prosecuting drug and fraud cases. In courtrooms, she engaged jurors with humor and charm, former colleagues recalled. “She had real jury appeal,” said Gary Naftalis, a former supervisor. It was during that period that she met Gossett, who was investigating cases with the office. They married in 1972. A few years after Rowan left the Southern District in 1974, she and Gossett were invited by a former office colleague, John W. Nields Jr., to join the staff of the House ethics committee’s “Koreagate” investigation looking into Korean influence-peddling in Congress. Rowan subsequently served as an assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission. In 1980, she founded an investigative consulting firm, Rowan Associates, which Gossett joined after leaving the FBI in 1983. They worked together for 35 years, retained by law firms, corporations and state and federal agencies. Rowan died at 82 on October 31, 2020 at a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. (Retieved from https://www.phillytrib.com/obituaries/barbara-ann-rowan-who-spurred-advances-for-black-lawyers-dies-at-82/article_89478650-24dc-5cd1-999c-6f5f745c04c6.html .)
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