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History and Traditions

L. Hart Wright

L. Hart Wright taught at the University of Michigan Law School, 1946-1983.

Date of Birth: 1917
Date of Death: 1983


L. Hart Wright, the Paul G. Kauper Professor of Law at The University of Michigan and leading expert on U.S. federal and European tax procedures, died Tuesday, April 12, 1983, at the age of 65. He succumbed to radiation pneumonitis while undergoing treatment for lung cancer at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Law students, colleagues on the Law School faculty, and the many people throughout the University and Ann Arbor community who worked with Professor Wright and delighted in his tenacious enthusiasm for analysis and debate were deeply saddened by his loss. The Lawyers Club was filled with members of the Law School Community who gathered to mourn and reminisce about Professor Wright, about his unique style of wit, his upright and generous spirit, his superb skill and dedication as a teacher of legal analysis. Moving testimonials to Professor Wright's impact on individuals and the community were offered by his long time colleague Allan F. Smith and by former student Warren Elliott of the class of 1952. 

In a written memorial statement, Dean Terrance Sandalow said: "In an era in which many members of university faculties have given primary allegiance to their scholarly specialties, Hart Wright consistently adhered to an older trandition. For more than 35 years, the University received his undivided allegiance. To it he gave unstintingly of his time, his energy, his many talents, and - he would have been unembarrassed to say - his love.  He received in return the only reward that was important to him, the respect and admiration of his colleagues and of countless students.

"For all of us who were his colleagues, Hart's death represents the loss not only of an esteemed colleague, but of a cherished friend. We shall miss his counsel, but even more, his comradeship."

Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Professor Wright earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1939 and a bachelor of laws degree in 1941, both from the University of Oklahoma.  After service in World War II, he earned a master of laws degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1946.

At that time, Professor Wright joined the Law School faculty and began a long career of devotion to the welfare of the School and the larger University. During his more than 35 years on the faculty, he served on many University-wide committees, notably the faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. He chaired the Board in Control of Student Publications and the SACUA Committee on Staff Excellence in addition to numerous committees within the Law School.

Professor Wright earned an international reputation as a student of taxation, and his contributions as a public servant were of sufficient importance that the Treasury Department conferred upon him the Civilian Meritorious Service Award, the highest civilian award given by the government.

But it was as a teacher that he made his most significant contribution and from which he derived his deepest professional satisfactions. He brought to the classroom consummate professional skill, intense moral commitment, and a profound concern for his students. Among generations of graduates of the Law School, Professor Wright's scorn for the mere transmission of information without critical analysis and his skill at cultivating the powers of legal reasoning are legendary.

Many alumni will join with present students and faculty at the Law School in mourning the loss of so vital, provocative, and generous a member of this intellectual community. A committee, chaired by Jerome Libin of the class of 1959, has just begun raising funds to establish a memorial endowment for Professor Wright.  Those wishing to make contributions to this endowment may send them to the Law School Fund Office, indicating they are to be included in the L. Hart Wright memorial endowment.

-- From the University of Michigan Law School's Law Quadrangle Notes, V. 27, Iss. 03 (Spring 1983).


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