Frank Robert Kennedy, a distinguished legal scholar on the subject of bankruptcy law, made a lifetime of contributions to the scholarship of bankruptcy law in the United States, and to the formation of bankruptcy law and procedures. His work in the field of bankruptcy over fifty years helped shape bankruptcy law and what was to become the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 through his involvement in many of the conferences and committees that drafted the legislation for congressional debate. He was a professor of bankruptcy law at the University of Iowa and at the University of Michigan. He taught bankruptcy law and related subjects at the University of Michigan from 1961 to 1984.
Kennedy was born July 27, 1914, in Strafford, Missouri. He attended Southwest Missouri State University from 1931 to 1935 and received an A.B. and a teaching license. He received his law degree from Washington University School of Law, attending from 1936 to 1939. While at Washington University, he was first in his class all three years and was a member of the law review. It was while at Washington University that he took courses in secured transactions and debtor's estates. It was as a result of these classes that he decided to pursue his interests in bankruptcy and corporate reorganization. After completing his law degree, he received the Sterling Fellowship at Yale University Law School which allowed him to pursue a Juris Scientia Doctor (J.S.D), an advanced law degree. This was common practice at that time for those lawyers who wanted to become law professors. While at Yale, he was a protégé of J.W. Moore, a leading academician on Chapter X reorganization, and helped him revise Collier on Bankruptcy. Professor Moore also helped him gain membership to the National Bankruptcy Conference.
World War II interrupted Kennedy's work on his J.S.D. thesis. He spent the war (1943-1946) in the Navy working as a personnel officer at the Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island. He became a law professor at the University of Iowa in 1940 and continued to work on his J.S.D. thesis which he successfully completed in 1953. He taught at the University of Iowa from 1940 to 1942 and 1946 to 1960. His primary subjects of instruction were: bankruptcy, secured transactions, creditor's rights, restitution, trade regulation, federal jurisdiction, and constitutional law.
In addition to his academic career, he participated in the bankruptcy law profession as a member of committees and conferences whose mission it was to examine, supervise, and revise the bankruptcy laws and procedural bankruptcy rules of the United States. In this role, he has served as a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference (NBC) since 1947. The purpose of the NBC is to study bankruptcy case administration and develop needed amendments when requested by the United States House and Senate Judiciary Committees. As a member of the NBC he has acted as chairman of the Drafting Committee and member of the executive committee, 1959 and as secretary, 1981-1990. In 1959 he was also invited to become the reporter for the first Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States (ACBR), of which he was a member from 1960 to 1976. The ACBR was formed to draft rules of procedure for bankruptcy courts. This included drafting a statute that authorized the Supreme Court to promulgate procedural rules even if they conflicted with the existing Bankruptcy Act, an unusual grant of powers considering the separation of powers under the Constitution. This authority was later removed by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978. Professor Kennedy was appointed executive director of the Commission on Bankruptcy Laws (CBL) in 1970. The CBL was authorized by Congress to study the current bankruptcy laws and process. The CBL grew out of a long-standing issue in the legal community regarding the status of bankruptcy courts and whether the bankruptcy process should be an administrative rather than a judicial procedure. It held hearings all over the country regarding issues in bankruptcy law. In 1973, the CBL produced bankruptcy legislation to propose to Congress. Although the legislation did not pass that year, it helped to lay the foundation for the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.
Professor Kennedy's relationship with the University of Michigan began in 1958 when he was a visiting professor. The university was looking for a professor in bankruptcy and reorganization after the death of professor Edgar Durfee, and Michigan persuaded him to return. He returned as a permanent professor in 1961, and remained at the university until 1984 when he was given emeritus status. He came to Michigan because of the opportunity to dedicate more of his teaching and scholarly time to bankruptcy-related issues. While at Michigan he taught creditor's rights, bankruptcy, reorganization, secured transactions, and consumer credit. He received the Distinguished Faculty Achievement award in 1971. He was named the Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law in 1979. Over time he has contributed prodigious scholarship to the field of bankruptcy law by having almost 170 articles published in law reviews or contributed to legal treatises. In 1997 he was recognized for fifty years of membership in the Association of American University Professors.
He also served as Of Counsel to Sidley & Austin in Chicago, IL from 1983 to 1994. His civic involvement includes membership in the Ann Arbor Rotary Club where he served as president from 1979 to 1980.
More Information About Frank R. Kennedy
Papers (Finding Aids)
Memorials & Tributes:
Brody, Hon. George. "Frank R. Kennedy" 82 Mich. L. Rev. 189 (1983-1984).
Law Quadrangle Notes Articles
"In Memoriam: Frank R. Kennedy," 50 L. Quadrangle Notes 93 (Summer, 2008).
"Kennedy receives Distinguished Service Award," 45 L. Quadrangle Notes 32-33 (Fall Winter, 2002).
"Faculty," 39 L. Quadrangle Notes 11 (Spring, 1996).
"Professor Frank R. Kennedy," 30 L. Quadrangle Notes 2-3 (Winter, 1986).
"Faculty retirements," 28 L. Quadrangle Notes 28 (Spring, 1984).
"Browder, Kennedy And Wright Get Distinguished Professorships," 23 L. Quadrangle Notes 1 (Winter, 1979).
"Three Appointed to Law Faculty", 5 L. Quadrangle Notes 5 (May, 1961).