By Michael Goldman
Lowell Sun
January 4, 2015

I've reached the point in my life where I check the death notices almost every day, in large part to make sure I myself didn't make the list.

As I approach my 50th high-school reunion, however, I always assume it is possible to occasionally see the name of a former classmate or two, or maybe the name of some old colleague from the past, listed.

This is how I found the name of Mike Ralph a couple of months ago. Ralph, a former aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, for whom I also once worked, was later a longtime senior administrator at the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority.

I hadn't seen or heard from Mike in decades, but seeing his name gave me pause anyway, both because he was a very good man with whom I had shared some pretty good times, and because he was yet one more person I once knew who was no more.

At the end of each year, the custom is to list the names of the famous and infamous from the worlds of politics, sports or the media on long lists of the departed.

Amongst this year's list of the famous were Robin Williams, Pete Seeger, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Ben Bradlee, Don Zimmer, Maya Angelou and former Reagan Press Secretary James Brady.

Amongst the list of the infamous were Fred Phelps, the leader of the hate-filled, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church and Mandy-Rice Davies, the "other woman" in the so-called 1963 Christine Keeler-John Profumo affair.

What follows, however, are the stories of two who left us in 2014 who won't make either list.

The names of Lillian Gobitas Klose and Dollree Mapp have passed my lips hundreds of times over the years.

As I explained to students in my Media, Politics and Law class, they played roles in insuring rights in cases involving freedom of speech and freedom from illegal search and seizure.

One, Gobitas Klose was a true innocent, while the other, Mapp, ultimately had many negative encounters with the criminal-justice system, including a conviction in New York in 1971 for heroin possession.

Both are legal heroes nonetheless.

Gobitas Klose, 90, died this year and was forgotten by most. In 1935, she and her brother, both members of the small religious community known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a public-school classroom in Minersville, Pa., because their religion forbade it.

Driven out of school, spat on, attacked with rocks and facing death threats, Lillian's case of her free-speech right not to be forced to recite the pledge in direct contravention of her religious teachings made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1940, where, by an 8-1 vote, she and her brother lost their case.

Yet three years later, aware of how the decision horrifically had impacted law-abiding Jehovah's Witnesses across the country, the Supreme Court virtually advertised for a similar case to be put forward for them to decide.

On Flag Day 1943, the Gobitas decision was reversed by a 6-3 vote, one of the few times in U.S. history that the Supreme Court reversed itself so quickly on a matter of constitutional law.

Mapp is another story. She died at 91 this year, hardly a legal innocent.

Yet like Klose, her clash with the criminal-justice system changed your rights forever.

In 1957, when she was 34, Mapp stubbornly refused to allow the Cleveland police to enter her apartment to look for a bombing suspect without possessing a legally obtained search warrant.

Entering anyway, the police found the suspect and arrested both he and Mapp, thus setting in motion the case latter called Mapp v. Ohio.

In 1961, the Supreme Court ruled the results of any illegal search could not be used against any person under the basic protection afforded every citizen under the Fourth Amendment.

That protection included even Mapp and the suspected bomber, who was later found innocent of that crime by a jury.

Lillian Gobitas Klose and Dollree Mapp.

Two women gone forever yet worth remembering this year or any year.

Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.

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