Sunday, April 18, 2021

Recalling Archibald Cox, an Island of Integrity in a Swirling Sea of Partisanship

 Fifty years ago, if you saw a pickup truck in Harvard Law School’s parking lot, it belonged to Archie. Professor Archibald Cox, who loved his farm and his horses.

Archie was a Yankee, and born to law. His father was a noted lawyer. His great-grandfather, William Evarts, had prosecuted Jefferson Davis and defended Andrew Johnson against impeachment. Archie was a diligent and brilliant lawyer; but what makes any of this worth telling was his quiet, stubborn commitment to do right.

He fell into politics when fellow New Englander Jack Kennedy drafted him to organize professors to provide campaign ideas. In 1961, Kennedy appointed Cox Solicitor General. He argued the government’s Supreme Court cases, including “one person, one vote” and major civil rights cases.

In 1973, Richard Nixon appointed Cox - a symbol of rectitude - Special Prosecutor to investigate the Watergate mess.

I met Archie in 1978. We were friendly, though not close. Two memories: in class he suffered fools with such grace that if he called on you, and you were unprepared or hungover, and tried your best to respond meaningfully, he not only listened but might, weeks later, suddenly ask, “Mr. Goodman, regarding your point about Smith v. U.S., . . .” and offer a new insight. Also, he always kept the hour before a class free for preparation. He was Mr. Constitutional Law, but so diligent (and humble) he still prepared carefully.

A friend and classmate, Ken Gormley, knew Archie well, and later wrote a splendid biography, which I recommend. Reading it made me long for a time when more folks put principle before partisanship. In one scene, a just-retired Supreme Court Justice tells Cox that, in one recent case, he’d written an opinion deciding one way, then one deciding the other, and ultimately stayed up all night trying to get it right.

When Watergate testimony suddenly revealed that a White House taping system recorded Nixon’s Oval Office conversations for posterity, Archie demanded to hear pertinent tapes. Nixon ordered him to stop seeking the tapes. Though Archie respected the Presidency, he didn’t give up. Nixon intended Cox to resign.

Instead, Archie gave a live Saturday news conference at the National Press Club explaining why he disobeyed Nixon. Archie, his wife, and a friend walked there from the office. It was aired live by two networks, and during halftime of ABC’s football game. Archie, lacking institutional support, wondered if one man could successfully take on the President; but he did his best.

That press conference sparked the “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which Nixon ordered Attorney-General Elliott Richardson to fire Archie. Richardson, a Republican, but another Yankee with a powerful conscience, resigned. Nixon ordered Richardson’s deputy to fire Archie. He too resigned. Finally Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox.

Archie awakened a country. Judge John Sirica eventually ordered Nixon to produce the tapes. Nixon appealed, but the Supreme Court ruled against him, unanimously. Exit King Richard.

My favorite moment is when, as they’re walking back across Washington after that press conference, Archie suddenly wants a beer. His friend finds some in a store, but can’t get anyone’s attention. They’re all in the back, watching TV. “Come back later, man, we’re watching history here!” He realizes they’re watching Archie, and he tells them he’s right outside. They refuse money for the beer, and rush out to shake Archie’s hand.

Thanks, Archie, for setting us all a superb example.

- 30 -

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 18 April 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and will shortly be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[The referenced book is Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation, by Ken Gormley. A friend who is reading John Dean’s book on Watergate says Dean discusses conversations about Cox, with Nixon and his pals underestimating Archie and Nixon figuring Richardson will keep Archie under control – and Haldeman wondering whether they could trust Richardson. Most of official Washington underestimated Cox. They thought he was “too soft – not nasty enough.” Wikipedia’s entry on Cox notes that “James Doyle, a Washington Star reporter who would later become the chief press advisor for Cox's group, described his own first reaction to meeting Cox: ‘Prosecutors are supposed to have the instincts of a shark; this one seemed more like a dolphin.’"

According to Lewis (the Times reporter who knew Cox well and also taught some courses at HLS), Cox said when he took the job, “I think sometimes it is effective not to be nasty, in a nasty world – although it may take a little while for people to realize that.” Lewis commented: 

If Cox and his staff had not been so able and dogged, they easily could have fallen in a dozen procedural holes along the way in the tapes case. …But plainly there was more to that Saturday night and its aftermath. It all depended on public attitudes—and they in turn depended on the public's reading of one man's character. I am convinced myself that the character of Archibald Cox was essential to the result. Nixon and his men never understood it; they assumed that Cox must be a conspirator, like them, when he was so straight as to approach naivete.   ]

[I should note that although I omitted this because of the limited space in a newspaper column, Kennedy’s campaign wasn’t Cox’s first brush with politics, as he had served as head of the Wage Stabilization Board initiated by Harry Truman in 1952.

Looking on-line for a photo of Cox with horses, I learned that his grandson, Archibald Cox III, is a noted horse trainer.

Finally, I just read the NYT obit, which, after lengthy discussion of his accomplishments, adds:

As a law professor Mr. Cox seemed to make a studied attempt to run his life with courtly, Yankee good humor. His crew-cut hair, button-down shirts and skinny bow ties were personal trademarks, as was his fondness for driving to work in a pickup truck from his farm in Wayland, Mass. He also had a summer home in Maine.

A gaunt 6-footer who wore three-piece suits, Mr. Cox was often described as ''ramrod straight,'' not only because of his bearing but also because of his personality.

In the classroom he had his detractors. He was invariably admired for his scholarship, but his lectures in labor, Constitutional and administrative law were at times criticized as ''soporific'' and ''dry.''

''There's no question that he's in complete command of his subject,'' one student wrote in a critique. ''But he's not a performer in the classroom. There's no sparkle at all.''

Well, yeah. I like the two paragraphs on his manner and personality; and the two on his classroom manner are thoroughly accurate. ]

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Some Concerns about Dogs

The County is working on a sole-source contract with “Barkhouse” to help decrease our homeless dog population, partly by transporting dogs to other states for adoption.

Many question the plan’s wisdom and legality. Some urge competitive bidding, because other entities could provide the same services. Some argue that since Barkhouse participated in writing the plan, it’s disqualified: a county can’t “accept a bid or proposal from a person who directly participated in the preparation of specifications, qualifications or evaluation criteria on which the specific competitive bid or proposal was based.” (County Manager Fernando Macias says this provision doesn’t apply.) There are also anti-donation clause issues.

People I respect consider Barkhouse (Kelly M. Barker) caring, creative, and uniquely capable of making progress on a tough problem. Others say Ms. Barker isn’t careful about dogs’ health, sometimes misrepresents things, and tends to react to questions or criticisms by attacking the questioner.

I can’t say. I asked to hear her side. Apparently lawyers advised otherwise.

Public records establish that two people back in Michigan won a 2009 default judgment default judgment on claims claims Barker breached a contract and defrauded them, promising their money would be in escrow and then be secured by real property in Dubai, and claiming she was a Michigan lawyer. (Apparently, after garnishing Barker’s pay and bank account, they eventually got their money.)

With which Barkhouse entity would the County contract? Barker has several entities, although some public records are unclear. Three are (or were) nonprofits: Global Flying Hospitals (Florida) and Uncaged Paws (one in Florida, one here). A column’s too short to discuss all the apparent irregularities, or their possible significance, and I’m no tax lawyer. (Judge Macias apparently sees no problem. I’m not so sure, but likely nobody will test these issues in court.)

Barker’s apparent response to questions concerns me. When someone from respected dog rescuer From the Heart asked to see papers a nonprofit is supposed to produce, Ms. Barker allegedly contacted a third-party to attack FTH. Someone who’d raised questions about Barkhouse received a lawyer letter (evidently designed to threaten, but somewhat silly) ordering her to “cease and desist” her “harassment.”

Really, it’s the dogs I worry about.

An experienced dog rescuer in Boulder, Colorado (‘Beca of Brighter Days) wrote that Barker talked them into taking 30-some puppies and their moms by claiming all pups were healthy and would come with vaccines, a vet check, etc.; but some puppies were seriously ill and papers were missing. The first puppy died two hours after arrival in Boulder, distemper killed three more, another was euthanized, and others were hospitalized. Allegedly, Ms. Barker lied about related points, and only a few papers ever arrived. As problems mounted, ‘Beca sent Barker a “frustrated message,” which Barker answered by posting an old non-stellar review of Brighter Days. Brighter Days paid huge vet bills. ‘Beca wrote the County that she wished she could say that Barkhouse, if better organized, “could do great things . . . but the bottom line is that’s not true. They lied, they hid the fact puppies were sick, took young pups away from their moms, and were the direct [cause] of the deaths of all these pups.” Reportedly, other entities either won’t take a Barkhouse shipment or won’t let dogs be shipped along with Barkhouse dogs.

I hope county officials put egos aside and examine the facts with the care our “best friends” deserve. 

                                              - 30 -


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 11 April2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and is available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[I regret that Ms. Barker declined to speak with me. Often folks can soften the apparent import of facts. For example, would she deny the fraud alleged by her associates in Michigan, explain extenuating circumstances, portray it as a one-off for which she feels remorse? Are there surrounding facts we don’t know that partially justify her conduct? We don’t know.]

[It’s always tough but useful to try to maintain impartiality about polarizing people whom many see as a devil and others as a marvel. I urge county officials to take their best shots at doing the same. I have seen local officials, right or wrong, circle the wagons and view as the enemy anyone who disagrees with them. I know that they have concerns that nonprofits’ turf battles and petty jealousies often prevent progress. We do often see petty jealousies among nonprofits all doing good; but it is not always so deep or strident as to prevent cooperation. I see why they supposed this deal with Ms. Barker might be a good idea. I hope they can see clearly, and admit that they see, why others might see things very differently. (While some of the arrows sticking out of this plan were fired by local nonprofits who might suppose the deal would harm them, most were not. From the Heart notes early in its letter to the BOCC that it is an El Paso entity that would be unlikely to bid, and unlikelier to submit a winning bid, if the County defined its needs and published an RFP. Brighter Days is in Colorado, as are other entities that I believe might have material evidence to give if the City did a serious investigation.]

[I just want the County to give this plan a long, hard, fair look. I fear county officials will react defensively, circle the wagons, feel more than ever committed to their initial course, and dismiss serious questions as the shrill complaints of jealous nonprofits. Just now, out back, petting a dog (a rescue who kindly came to live with us when her rescuer could no longer care or her), and listening to a neighbor call one of the many cats they feed, we all hoped the County will get this right.]

[P.S. In a comment to this post, a group posted a link to its letter to our county government, with supporting documents:!Aqf7bCPmb2awiHhaQ3OYhLWYn9cJ?e=TSl7fL]


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Voter Suppression or Guaranteeing Voting Integrity?

Republicans don’t like the results of majority voting in the U.S. and have introduced more than 300 bills in more than 45 states to undermine it.

Any who aren’t allergic to facts realize that significant voter fraud is an urban myth. The conservative Hoover Institute reviewed decades worth of records and found very, very little. Before Trump and Trumpists filed scores of lawsuits in 2020 and provided no evidence, former N.M. Secretary of State Dianna Duran sent the State Police 64,000 records to investigate for voter fraud and found none; and the State paid $90,000 for illegally hiding those public records from the ACLU.

So the folks who desperately shout “Voter fraud!” can’t find any.

Logic would tell us the same: individual voter fraud just isn’t worth it. Would a sane person risk serious criminal penalties over a vote that’s extremely unlikely to change anything? Absentee-ballot fraud is also harder than it sounds. Folks registering to vote must show the state identification, then most states require voters request absentee ballots be sent them by mail. Widespread voter fraud would be extremely difficult to coordinate and to hide.

The Republicans are doing this for the obvious reason: as white U.S. citizens move toward minority status, the Republican Party continues having white males, mostly older, in almost every significant party position; the party has lost the popular vote badly in the past several years, and gets by on gerrymandering, U.S. Constitutional provisions on the Senate and Electoral College, and convincing voters that immigrants, black neighbors, and abortions are more urgent national issues than global warming or economic inequality. Then they gave us Mr. Trump, idolized by his “base” but appalling to most everyone else.

Georgia’s 98-page S.B. 202 is the most prominent of the make-voting-harder bills. While some provisions are innocuous or even sensible, the overall effect is so unfair and dangerous that even corporations are objecting. Some provisions limit drop-boxes (and close them in the crucial last few days when voting is heaviest), start absentee voting later, and forbid giving water to voters waiting in line.

One provision changes the composition and powers of the state election board, making it a mere tool of the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Secretary of State, an independently elected official who in 2020 stood up to Donald Trump’s bullying and whining designed to overturn the will of Georgia voters, will no longer chair the five-member board. He’ll be an ex-officio, non-voting member. Republican politicians, not voters, will choose the chair.

The remaining four members will be three more Republican appointees (one each by the state senate and state house of representatives and one by the Republican Party) and one Democratic Party appointee, creating a 4-1 Republican majority, with no real nonpartisan member, although the chair may not have run for office or made campaign contributions during the previous two years.

The Republican-controlled board would also have more power to intervene in county election boards that are deemed underperforming. (e.g., Fulton County.) County election boards certify results and decide challenges to voters’ eligibility; now the Republican-controlled Sate Election Board will be able to replace county boards where results are unsatisfactory to the Republican state legislators. Such a system unquestionably would have said, “Yes, Sir!” when Donald Trump told them to find 11,000 more votes in 2020.

They haven’t revived the “literacy test” whereby dark-skinned voters had to recite the Constitution from memory to qualify. Yet.

                                                          - 30 -

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 3 April2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on on the newspaper's website and KRWG’s website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and will shortly be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[One reader wrote this morning to ask a long series of questions, starting with “I am confused as to your statement, ‘While some provisions are innocuous or even sensible, the overall effect is so unfair and dangerous that even corporations are objecting.’ How can innocuous changes become dangerous?Well, what I intended to say, but apparently failed to make clear because of my space limitations or ineptitude, was that in this 98-page bill there were many minor points, including some that were administrative improvements with a neutral effect on voting and some that actually improve voter access; but the bulk of them will tend unnecessarily to suppress voting, by shortening periods of early voting and/or making it harder to relieve the impact of long-lines on voters’ patience in highly-populated (and often the most progressive) counties. Too, one could argue that the changes to the Sate Election Board’s composition and powers are innocuous; but in the context of a defeated president trying to bully the Georgia Secretary of State into illegally changing the vote, and encouraging state legislators to usurp powers to change results in their states, putting those decisions in the hands of the Republican-controlled legislature seems an obvious step toward permitting such a politically-motivated change in some future election. Why else do it? At any rate, a further discussion, perhaps on our radio show, with Republicans included, may be warranted.]

[Meanwhile, the Texas State Senate has now passed a package of election bills that would implement new restrictions on voting, which may be worse than the Georgia voting changes. That’s Senate Bill 7, of which I haven’t yet read the final version. The Texas House of Representatives, which is considering its own omnibus package of restrictions, House Bill 6, which some say is worse than SB 7. Texas actually leads the nation in restrictive voting bills, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Interestingly, Governor Greg Abbott announced that combatting election fraud is an emergency item in the legislative session, although he admits that there were no known cases of voter fraud in Texas in 2020. What’s the emergency? He doesn’t explain, but insists that We must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process.” In this new hyper-partisan world, I guess you don’t even need to come up with a good cover story.]

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Time for Healing

It’s fitting that it’s spring, as (barring a powerful COVID-19 variant or world-class stupidity) we cautiously “re-open.”

I’ve watched many plants poke their heads out of the dirt, with the shy determination of a kid attending a first dance. I also recall an early spring day snowshoeing in some mountains in Oregon mountains and hearing sporadic loud gunshot-like sounds that turned out to be saplings, after months bent almost double under the snow’s weight, snapping to attention as the snow melted. Then there’s that whole groundhog shadow thing.

We see similar variety in our responses to COVID-19. I almost wrote, “among post-pandemic humans,” but people are still dying; the virus is still trying to morph into vaccine-resistant variants; our county is yellow, not green, in New Mexico’s color-coded system; vaccine-resistors might keep the virus around longer than necessary; many workers in our country are being exposed to possible infection in their jobs; and other countries (mostly poorer countries, as usual) haven’t yet acquired sufficient numbers of doses.

Just as the trees are budding and we’ve planted our first tomatoes of 2021, vaccinated people are dining with friends again indoors, major-league baseball teams are opening the season with partially-filled stands, March Madness is in full swing (with Loyola’s 101-year-old Sister Jean back in her seat watching, after battling for that right), the Belton Bridge Club board is discussing when and how to reopen, and the Black Box Theatre will soon perform before a live audience (albeit outdoors, in their delightful patio).

People seem cautiously relieved, more than joyful. I hadn’t greatly feared getting infected, although I consistently wore a mask in public and was careful, even delaying unnecessary ventures into stores. I’ve been playing pickleball outdoors, with others who also wear masks. I hosted radio shows, but observed the strict rules of the station, which for months was mostly closed and which still permits only telephonic guests. I went to court when needed, masked. But I damned sure felt pleased and relieved about getting vaccinated.

We have much healing to do. Many are grieving. Many who are grieving feel anger toward Republicans for not repudiating a leader who let more people die than necessary. Many who did not believe in masks or other precautions are angry at being forced to wear them. Some (e.g. Proud Boys, Boogaloo, and QAnon) who wanted to veto the election are now shouting that vaccines could wipe out humanity. On all sides, our varied pandemic choices haven’t so much created a bitter divide, as widened and deepened a divide that was already rancorous.

While for some folks the need to pull together (as in wartime) may have muted partisan sniping, for many it is otherwise. The majority of pickleball players fought the City’s rules and played maskless, often with masks at the ready if police or other officials appeared. Some on each side felt contempt or anger toward the other. Will that fade as quickly as our peach blossoms?

So we need to heal from our great losses and suffering, and from the cabin fever or even mental illness many have experienced, from stalled educations, sports development and careers, and devastated businesses. And we need to stay sensible and focused on getting through this together. Infections rose last week in 32 states (not including New Mexico), and Brazil just set a new high for new infections in a day.

Let’s not drop the ball while celebrating.



 [The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 28 March 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG’s website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and is available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[Take a deep breath! Enjoy spring, despite dust storms, grief, and continuing awareness that “the Fat Lady ain’t sung yet.” And let’s each forgive ourselves our excesses in shouting what we thought about all this, and even consider that others’ excesses arose not from malevolence or some “evil” disposition, but from the same human emotions we and our families feel.]


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Registration Links for "Will Local News Survive?" and Dr. Gregory Cajete's NM SUCCESS climate change talk

 This post is purely functional: to provide information for folks who may be interested in either or both ofr two Zoom events later today: the 4 p.m. Sunshine Week panel discussion entitled "DEAD or ALIVE: Will Local News Survive?  A discussion of journalism's future;" and/or Dr. Greg Cajete's 7pm talk (the year's first in the NM SUCCESS climate-change series).  (Some panelists and organizers of the Sunshine Days event joined us on radio this morning from 8:30-9, and Dr. Cajete spoke with us from 9 to 10, and I promised to put these URL's up on the blog.)

Will Local News Survive? To register for this virtual event, go to and you'll see the link to click on for actual attendance/participation.


To register for Dr. Cajete's talk, go to:

I have also included below further information on these events: 

New Mexico State University will host a panel discussion for Sunshine Week 2021 at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. This year’s topic will be “DEAD or ALIVE: Will Local News Survive? A discussion of journalism’s future.” The virtual event requires attendees register at
“While news organizations have been under extreme economic pressure, over the last year they continued to report on some very major, very important stories,” said David Irvin, NMSU business and government documents librarian. “All of our panelists are working journalists from the region, so I look forward to hearing how they covered their beats in the midst of the pandemic.”
In its ninth year at the NMSU Library, Sunshine Week is a national initiative that was created by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government.

Peter Goodman will serve as moderator for the panel discussion. He is a Las Cruces-based columnist and radio personality. Panelists include Walt Rubel, Las Cruces journalist and radio personality; Kathleen Sloan, publisher and journalist at the Sierra County Sun; Algernon D’Ammassa, reporter and columnist for the Las Cruces Sun-News; and Susan Dunlap, reproductive justice reporter at the NM Political Report.

For more information contact Irvin at 575-646-6925. The NMSU Library, Tim Parker, an NMSU alumnus, NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies and Las Cruces Press Women are presenting this event.

Dr. Gregory Cajete

Wednesday March 24th 7pm
Register for event 

Gregory Cajete, Native American educator whose work is dedicated to honoring the foundation of indigenous knowledge in education. Dr. Cajete is a Tewa Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. He has serves as a New Mexico Humanities scholar in ethno botany of Northern New Mexico and as a member of the New Mexico Arts Commission. In addition, he has lectured at colleges and universities in U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, Japan, Russia, Bhutan, Taiwan, Educador, Peru, Bolivia, England, France and Germany.

Dr. Cajete is a practicing watercolor, pastel, acrylic, ceramic and metal artist. he is extensively incolved with art and its application to education. He is also a scholar of herbalism and holistic health. In this capacity, he has researched Native American, Chinese and Ayurvedic healing philosophies and the cultural perspectives of health and wholeness.

Dr. Cajete also designs culturally responsive curricula geared to the special needs and learning styles of Native American students. These curricula are based upon Native American understanding of the “nature of nature” and utilizes this foundation to develop and understanding of the science and artistic thought process as expressed in Indigenous perspectives of the natural world.

Dr. Cajete has authored ten books including “Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education” (Kivaki Press, 1994); “Ignite the Sparkle: An Indigenous Education Curriculum Model”, (Kivaki Press, 1999); “Spirit of the Game: Indigenous Wellsprings (2004),” “A People’s Ecology: Exploration in Sustainable Living,” and “Native Science: Natural laws of Interdependence” (Clear Light Publishers, 1999 and 2000).

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Write to a Beloved Teacher Today!

Spring’s arrival and school reopenings remind me of a conversation years ago, when a friend was saying that his high school French teacher had not only taught him French but held frank discussions of life from which Dan learned even more.

I suggested he write that teacher and tell him that. The teacher, likely retired, might be doubting he ever did anything worth a damn, and appreciate hearing someone recalled him gratefully.

And I realized I too had a couple of letters to write.

Sophomore year in prep school, English teacher Blair Torrey, who also coached hockey, had us write a theme each day for six weeks. It was intense training, and I still recall his human, personal comments. He loved words and nature, and had a special honesty. Gentle and thoughtful, he’d starred on Princeton’s football and hockey teams, and he’d been a Marine Platoon Instructor. In my third year, on the day I was kicked out, when my gut was churning and I had hours to kill before my parents picked me up, Mr. Torrey suggested: “Why don’t you go skate around the hockey rink and just shoot the puck against the boards?” I did, skating and thinking for hours, and in January I joined the public high school hockey team.

Eminent law professor Clark Byse taught us first-year Contract Law. If you recall the tough-minded Professor Kingsfield terrorizing first-year law students in “The Paper Chase,” that’s Byse. In a poll of Harvard students asking who was the model for Kingsfield, Byse won handily. Byse said judges would be a hell of a lot tougher on careless or witless presentations. (They were!) He was preparing us.

He was shocked to hear at lunch one day that his gruff manner hurt people’s feelings. By my third-year, changes in his personal life had left him lonely. We’d see him going to his office at all hours to work, accompanied by a little black-and-white dog.

In 1994, Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show,” made Byse mildly famous beyond the law profession. The protagonist, a young Harvard Law School graduate, feels intimidated when he has to visit a famous Columbia professor. Needing something common to both men as an icebreaker, they chose Byse. Whenever the protagonist visited, the older lawyer would ask, “By the way, how’s Clark Byse?”

Somewhere, a woman watched that movie and, a few days later, called Harvard, asking if there really was a Professor Byse. She said that during World War II, as an Ambassador’s daughter, she’d met an Army lieutenant named Clark Byse somewhere in the Pacific, and just wondered . . . They put her through to Clark, and while I don’t know exactly how well they’d known each other in the Pacific, by our 2000 class reunion, they had married.

I suggested that letters to teachers you really appreciated might be welcome. (Mine brought me back in touch with Blair Torrey, after decades! We talked at length over lunch in Maine, where he lived on an old farm. I also heard from Byse.)

Further reflection shifts my emphasis to just being in awe of some of the wonderful folks who taught me, and were still going strong. (Others seemed jerks, and I gave ‘em hell, with youth’s unwitting cruelty.) I’d prepared this column two weeks ago. Then the tragic loss of Karen Trujillo, the ultimate teacher, became my column.

Thank someone who taught you. While you can.

                                 – 30 – 

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 21 March 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG’s website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and is available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[Early this morning a friend who reads the Sun-News emailed me, “Amen!  I had “teachers”, both school and “non school”, that I’ve kept in touch with until their death.  Still have youngsters popping up in life that give me new insight into the puzzle of life I’ve been assembling for decades. If we stop and consider our lives, we will be amazed and grateful for the abundance of gifts that we’ve received down through the years.  Expressing gratitude is an excellent elixir of health” I agree with his description of gratitude, which reminded me of a 2018 column (Bicycling to the Gratitude Cafe). This column was actually sparked by talking onn radio with my friend Rudy Apodaca, Las Cruces native and former Chief Judge on the New Mexico Court of Appeals, who sang the praises of a Las Cruces teacher to whom he was grateful, then having our producer say that she’d really enjoyed that same teacher years later. I also wanted to get across was what an unexpected boon it was for me to have reached out to Blair and Clark.]  


[Blair Torrey had never intended to teach, but found teaching as a Marine Platoon Instructor in 1954. He taught at Hotchkiss for 41 years, retiring in 1997. He died in July 2020 at the age of 88. In 1997, Sports Illustrated writer E.M. Swift ’69 wrote about his former coach: “In the spring of his final year teaching at Hotchkiss, Blair Torrey leads his senior English class across the campus, beyond the golf course, past a storage shed that is cluttered with piles of tires and rusting pipes. This is an outdoors course of Torrey’s invention, dedicated primarily to the business of seeing and the close observation of nature, subjects dear to his heart.”

'''It’s what we English teachers do,’ Torrey explains. ‘Try to get the kids to see more than the obvious. Good writing is seeing things other people don’t ordinarily see.'''

He had been a three-sport star at Princeton: guard on the football team, catcher on the baseball team, and hockey goalie. Somehow those three positions sum up something about him: rugged, smart, and doing the tough, essential, but relatively unsung work. I’m extremely fortunate to have gotten back in touch with him. Dael and I had a delightful lunch with him in Maine (where for forty years he had a tree farm, which is now in the National Trust). He was a tall, distinguished older gentleman who was great to talk with. Like Byse, too, he found late love: he had been happily married to Ellen Rainbolt (whose brother was a friend of his, and whose golden retriever was a pal of mine at Hotchkiss), but a while after she died he married Eugenia, to whom he was happily married when Dael and I saw him, and who has survived him.]

[Clark Byse (1912-2007) was a legend in legal circles and a warm, wonderful guy.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote of him:

Clark Byse as teacher taught administrative law and contract law to generations of law students. His object was to transmit what we call “legal thinking” — the disciplined, critical, purpose-oriented approach that underlies American law. Indeed, Clark made a point of telling his students, “[N]ever forget that the emphasis in this class is on what and how you think, not on what some judge or treatise writer or your instructor thinks.” As a teacher of legal thinking, Clark was a giant, a master of the trade.

Clark Byse as colleague was ever ready to discuss an issue, to take the time necessary to help others, including many fledgling colleagues such as myself. When I would barge through the door, concerned about an administrative law problem, Clark would spring to life, pace back and forth with me, arguing, discussing, provoking, as we wore out the carpet, and he would eventually come up with the suggestion or thought that made the difference. He loved discussion; he respected the right to dissent; he was a champion of academic freedom, in his words and in his deeds.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan called Byse “Professor Byse was a brilliant and legendary teacher, a genius at using the Socratic method to hone students’ intellects, and an uncompromising scholar who demanded the best of both his students and himself.” She also cited a 1958 example of his passion for academic freedom, when he pushed Harvard not to administer a “loyalty oath” then required of students receiving certain federal grants.

I just know that at our 20th reunion, the ex-professor we all wanted to get to see was Clark, who had retired from HLS 17 years earlier.

In snagging another photo of Clark, I ran across a post by a Geoff Shephard called "A Tribute I Wrote about my Favorite Law School Professor" -- which describes at some length Clark destroying the writer as a "1L" (first-year law student), then adds this account of seeking Clark out in his office to beg for mercy:

When I found him in his office, he had no idea why I’d come. I asked him if I had offended him in some way, and told him how devastating it was for me to be singled out for abuse in his class. He softened immediately. He told me that he thought we had merely engaged in intellectual jousting—for our mutual enjoyment. He knew I would be prepared and was genuinely hurt to learn that I was almost sick with fear of him and of going to his class. Beneath that very gruff exterior (and totally unlike Professor Kingsfield), beat a soft and caring heart.   As it turned out, he became my mentor and best friend on the faculty, and his insights and approach were a critical part of my legal education. I got my highest grade in school for Byse’s class, but that part I earned (I can still recite the details of virtually all of those early contracts cases); I also became Byse’s research assistant for the next two years

I include this because it sure does sound like stuff I saw.  However, Shephard did not turn out, politically, to be the sort of fellow Byse would agree with.  With Byse's help, Shepard got a White House Fellowship.  Richard Nixon was in the White House.  Shepard worked directly with the Nixon folks who got jailed after Watergtate, soon started hosting reunions of Nixon Administration members, and, as his website describes it, "In 2008, Shepard’s book on the politics behind the successful exploitation of the Watergate scandal, The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President, Inside the Real Watergate Scandal, was published by Penguin."

I disagree with him, but will order the book. ]