Roscoe Pound Dies at 93, Revitalized Legal System
Headed Harvard Law During Crucial Years
Roscoe Pound, grand old man of American jurisprudence and former Dean of Harvard Law School, died Wednesday at the age of 93.
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska when homesteaders still lived in sod houses on the plains, trained in Nebraska as a botanist, largely self-educated in law with only one year of Harvard Law School for formal training, Pound rose to the highest ranks of American scholarship, profoundly affected the course of American legal thought, and presided over the golden age of the Harvard Law School.
The man who witnessed nearly a century of American life expounded and systematized a legal philosophy which held that the law should adapt to changing conditions of the modern world.
300 Treatises and Books
Pound was a pioneer of modern judicial reform. His address to the American Bar Association in 1906 entitled "The Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice" catapulted him to national attention and sparked an era of judicial change.
During his lifetime Pound wrote more than 300 treatises and books; the complete bibliography of his writings fills 245 printed pages. In 1959, at the age of 89, Pound published his great five-volume work on "Jurisprudence."
Pound's feats were prodigious in many fields. Although he gave up Botany by the turn of the century he is still regarded as the primary authority on the flora of his home state.
A linguist, Pound could read French, German, Italian, Spanish, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Russian. At age 76, he learned Chinese after his appointment as advisor to the Nationalist Government of China.
The scholar's memory was legendary. He could recite the names of nearly all graduates of Harvard Law School and a standard joke held that if a student over forgot his locke number he had only to ask Dean Pound.
A Green Eyeshade
Pound was a familiar and beloved igure around Harvard Square, the Yard and the Law School. Thousands of Harvard students were accustomed to the sight of the portly old man with a bushy white moustache and bright brown eyes shielded by the everpresent green eyeshade. Until he reached his nineties. Pound worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in his Langdell office, continuing his prolific writing and voluminous world-wide correspondence.
Pound came to Harvard in 1910 as Story Professor of Law after serving as Commissioner of Appeals in Nebraska and as professor of Law at Northwestern and Chicago Universities.
In 1916 he was named Dean of the Law School, a position he held for thirty years. During this era Pound established the Law School as a national rather than an Eastern institution, expanded the faculty and curriculum, and developed a new system of legal instruction including a stress on sociology in law.
While Pound was Dean, law school registration almost doubled, but his standards were so rigorous that only two-thirds of his students gained degrees. Among these were many of the great political innovators of the New Deal years.
Initially a supporter of the New Deal, Pound later became an outspoken critic of what he saw as the judicial-administrative invasion of traditional legislative functions. A life-long Republican, Pound became in the late forties one of the foremost critics of U.S. Asian policy and a strong supporter of Chiang Kai-shek.
In 1937 Pound resigned as Dean of the Law School to become a University Professor. He then spent 11 years travelling, writing and teaching law, sociology and philosophy.
The American Bar Association honored Pound in 1940 with a medal for "conspicuous service to American jurisprudence."
Six years later, at age 75, Pound went to China at the invitation of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to reorganize the judicial system there. He returned in 1949.
Pound then taught law at the University of California until 1953 when he retired to Cambridge