November 26, 2007
60, Number 12
November 26, 2007
Pioneer of law, religion Berman was ‘humble giant in his field’
from staff reports
Emory School of Law Professor Harold Berman, honored and respected for his scholarship and passion for the law, passed away in New York City on Nov. 13. He was 89.
Berman, who recently celebrated his 60th anniversary as a law professor, referred to teaching as his “calling.” He served the Emory community as its first Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law — the highest honor the University can bestow upon a faculty member — for more than 20 years. He was James Barr Ames Professor of Law Emeritus of Harvard Law School, where he taught from 1948 to 1985.
“Hal’s contributions to Emory and to legal scholarship were impressive and far-reaching,” said Emory Law Dean David Partlett. “He was a humble giant in his field.”
A prolific scholar, Berman wrote 25 books and more than 400 articles on the topics of law and religion, comparative legal history, Russian law and culture, legal philosophy and private international law.
Berman was one of the pioneers of the study of law and religion. He played an integral role in the development of Emory’s law and religion program, now the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, where he served as senior fellow.
CSLR Director and Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law John Witte Jr. had the privilege of studying under Berman. “Out of the blue in 1982, I wrote to ask him whether I should come to Harvard Law School,” said Witte. “Happily, Hal Berman wrote me a wonderful personal letter and invited me to come study with him and to be his research assistant. That was my start in this field, and that in many ways is emblematic of the start that Hal Berman has given to so many others in this and other fields of legal study. He has taught more than 10,000 students over the past 60 years, and more than 250 of them are now teaching in law schools around the world.”
Through his role as founder and co-director of Emory’s World Law Institute, Berman promoted research and international education programs in world law, and sought to facilitate discussion and change in areas such as women’s health in developing countries.
One of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Soviet and post-Soviet law, Berman has served as a fellow of The Carter Center as well as founder and co-director of the American Law Center in Moscow, a joint venture of Emory Law and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.
Born in 1918 in Hartford, Conn., Berman received degrees from Dartmouth College and Yale University and studied at the London School of Economics. He served in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations from 1942 to 1945 as a cryptographer and received the Bronze Star Medal.
More recently, he has received honorary degrees from Catholic University of America, the Virginia Theological Seminary and the Russian Academy of Sciences Law University. He also was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He is survived by his wife Ruth Harlow Berman; their four children; seven grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. A public celebration and memorial of Berman’s life and work will be held at Emory early in the spring semester.