Winter 2008: Register

Pioneer of law and religion Harold Berman, a ‘humble giant in his field,’ dies at 89

Professor Harold Berman

Corky Gallo

Harold J. Berman, Emory’s first Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Soviet and post-Soviet law, was determined to write, teach, and travel as long as possible.

In fact, Berman, who died on November 13, 2007, in New York City at age eighty-nine, had been planning to return to Atlanta to teach at Emory in the spring.

“Hal’s contributions to Emory and to legal scholarship were impressive and far-reaching,” said Law Dean David Partlett. “He was a humble giant in his field.”

Last summer, Berman went on a two-week lecture tour of China, drawing huge crowds of law students and legal scholars. Many had read and taught from Berman’s comprehensive Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition.

Berman wrote twenty-five books and more than four hundred articles on law and religion, comparative legal history, Russian law, legal philosophy, and private international law.

President Emeritus James T. Laney 94H hired Berman in 1985 at age sixty-seven. “He was very vigorous,” Laney told the Fulton County Daily Report. “He was in many ways at the prime of his career.”

Berman, who converted from Judaism to Christianity in his twenties, was founder of Emory’s World Law Institute and played an integral role in the development of the University’s Law and Religion Program, now the Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

“Hal Berman has taught more than ten thousand students over the past sixty years,” said center director John Witte, “and more than 250 of them are now teaching in law schools around the world.”

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