More than 350 alumni, students and dignitaries gathered yesterday at the Law School to mark the anniversary of the birth of the late Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, with a "smorgasbord" of speeches, panel discussions and reminiscences.
Frankfurter was Byrne Professor of Administrative Law during a Law School tenure that stretched from 1914 until 1939. He died in 1965.
Speakers at the event included Dean of the Law School James Vorenberg '49, Loeb University Professor Emeritus Paul A. Freund, Rep. Barney Frank '61 (D-Mass.), Pforzheimer University Professor Oscar Handlin, Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky, and Arthur M. Schlesinger '38.
Abram J. Chayes '43, Frankfurter Professor of Law--who clerked for Frankfurter in 1951--said he was motivated to organize the event by the fact that Frankfurter" was simply the increasingly dominant presence at the Law School for over 20 years--to have him sort of disappear was a shame."
Chayes remembered Frankfurter as a "tremendous, effervescent, diverse person," and said that he was amazed by the large turnout--though a bit disappointed by the low number of students attending. "The dominating figures in the field are gathered here," Chayes said.
The students present appeared more curious than admiring.
"In many ways Frankfurter is pretty much of a paradigm to students here--he is held up as an example of an excellent scholar by professors that knew him and professors that studied under him," said Robin L. Little, a first-year law student. "I would sort of like to find out who he was," Little added.
There was ample chance to do so throughout the afternoon. In his opening remarks, Vorenberg called the occasion "an opportunity for those of us who knew Justice Frankfurter, Professor Frankfurter, Mister, one-L, two-L, three-L Frankfurter, to celebrate." Vorenberg clerked for Frankfurter in 1953.
Elliot L. Richardson '41 said he "came here as one of his devoted admirers." Richardson clerked for Frankfurter in 1948.
Freund was another admirer. He based his opening speech on his own memories of a long friendship on a justice, and the impressions of several mutual friends.
"There was only one Felix Frankfurter. He cared--he cared about people," Freund said. "And his care came through in his teaching."
Freund concluded by saying, "With Felix Frankfurter, friendship was a form of genius."
The afternoon's panel discussions concentrated on reminiscences of Frankfurter's personality and career, in the form of what Chayes called "a smorgasbord of themes and ideas and movements that were part of his life."
Pupel members included biographers, friends, historians and legal experience luborated in the effort t "put Frank furter in perspective," as one audience member reserved Panelists, who were associated by many vocal audience members, included Schlesinger--who spoke on the New Deal--and Rosovsky and Handlin, who were members of the panel that discussed 20th-century Zionism.