Alumni News E
ven before she entered law school, Hannah Best was working on behalf of people, espe- cially women, less fortunate than herself.
Married to a physician, she was a social worker, a consultant for Zuni Pueblo and was involved in a number of civil rights organizations.
Best was a founding member, along with a group of prominent women’s rights activists, including Gloria Steinem, Lisa Murkowski and Bella Abzug, of the national Women’s Political Caucus. In the 1970s, she, along with 300 other New Mexico women, founded the New Mexico chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also served as the president of the state NAACP.
The more she traveled around New Mexico, the more frustrated she became when she couldn’t find lawyers in the small towns to represent civil rights organizations. As a result, she enrolled in the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Following graduation in 1977, she joined the American Indian Law Center, where, under the guidance of Toby Grossman (`68), she helped pre- pare materials for tribal leaders prior to White House meetings and helped bring top government officials and tribal leaders together to discuss is- sues. She conducted field work for a paralegal pro- gram that trained Native Americans.
In 1981, Best wanted to open her own practice, but she recognized that she needed some supervision. With Harry Relkin (`74), she shared office space
Hannah Best: Always Working on Behalf of People
and found the support she wanted. For the next 24 years, she focused her practice on employment law, civil rights and work-related discrimination cases.
After a break, she opened a new office and changed her focus. She now helps businesses develop proac- tive human resources policies and procedures so they can stay in compliance with federal and state laws.
Best is one of the founders of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, along with Ray Hamilton and Tommy Jewell (`79). For her contributions to her community, she has received the United Nations Human Rights Award, a Women on the Move Award from the YMCA, a Diva Award from the Rape Crisis Center, the Charlie Driscoll Award from Dis- mas House and an award of distinction from the New Mexico State Bar.
In 2011, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women. Reflecting on her career, Best said, “Being a lawyer gave me an identity and fi- nancial independence. I liked the idea of combin- ing my experience as a social worker and the law.”
Although she now considers herself a New Mexi- can, Best was born at West Point Military Academy, where her father was a member of the 10th Cav- alry, a black-only unit of the U.S. Army known as the Buffalo soldier regiment. As such, he was a member of the cavalry’s polo team, which was the only all-black polo team in the country. The
Hannah Best (‘77)
youngest of six children, she babysat for Gen. George Patton’s daughter and Dwight D. Eisen- hower’s grandson.
After earning a master’s degree in social work at UCLA, she arrived in Albuquerque with her hus- band, a physician who was invited to complete his residency at the Veteran’s Administration hospital. They remained in Albuquerque and while no longer married, Best still remembers how the state grabbed her.
“From the moment we drove in from Gallup, I knew this was it. The 5 a.m. sunrise, with the twin boys in back, I thought, ‘This is my place.’”
To read more alumni profiles, go to lawschool.unm.edu/
alumni and click on Alumni Profiles.
George Long (`52) Bud Mulcock (`71) Geoffrey Sloan (`74)
Mary Han (`85) Margot Ballon (`86) Tim DeYoung (`90)
Veronica Molina (`94) Eric Youngberg (`96) Felissa Garcia (`97)
To read complete obituaries, go to lawschool.unm.edu/alumni
and click on In Memoriam.
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