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News Posted on August 8, 2016

King Hall Mourns Founding Dean Edward L. Barrett, Jr.

Ed BarrettEdward L. Barrett, Jr., the founding dean of UC Davis School of Law, died on August 4. A renowned constitutional law and criminal procedure scholar, Barrett established high standards of academic excellence and was instrumental in creating the strong sense of community and commitment to social justice that have defined UC Davis School of Law for more than 50 years. He was 98 years old.

Born in Wellington, Kansas in 1917, Barrett was raised in Utah and earned a bachelor's degree from Utah State University in 1938. He attended UC Berkeley School of Law and graduated first in his class in 1941. After law school, Barrett worked with the California Judicial Council before joining the U.S. Navy in 1942. He began his teaching career at UC Berkeley in 1946 and became a Professor of Law there in 1950. In 1957, he served for six months as special assistant to the Attorney General in Washington, D.C., where he assisted with the development of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He was a Guggenheim Scholar in 1964. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, he published two books, one of which is the widely used Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials, as well as numerous articles in leading law reviews.

Barrett's connection to UC Davis began in 1960, when he was appointed to a faculty committee studying the need for a new public law school in the University of California system. He was instrumental in guiding the decision to establish the new school at UC Davis and in designing it to operate on a smaller, more intimate scale than the other UC law schools.  In 1964, much to his surprise, Barrett was recommended for the deanship at the new school.  He accepted, and moved to Davis to begin the work of recruiting faculty, founding a law library, shepherding construction of the law school building, and attracting students.

Among the first hired were Mortimer Schwarz, who had founded legal libraries at the University of Montana and University of Oklahoma; Professor Dan Dykstra, a former academic vice president at the University of Utah; and Thelma Kiddo, who as assistant to the dean and registrar was a central figure at the School of Law from its beginnings until her retirement in 1986. Rounding out the founding faculty were Gerald J. Adler, Homer G. Angelo, Frank B. Baldwin III, Brigitte M. Bodenheimer, Edgar Bodenheimer, Floyd Feeney, Dov M. Grunschlag, James Hogan, Edward H. Rabin, Paul N. Savoy, John W. Whelan, and Donald H. Wollett.

"I looked for good people," Barrett recalled in a 2009 interview. "Some other schools have tried to start by deciding what they wanted the curriculum to be and then trying to find faculty to teach each subject. I went the other way.  I said, ‘I want the best people I can get, and we'll figure out the teaching distribution later,' and that worked."

Barrett also played an important role in designing the law school building, which was completed in the fall of 1968 and dedicated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall on April 12, 1969 in a ceremony featuring Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren.  Barrett took pains to ensure that the building was structured in a way that encouraged interaction between students and faculty, and small enough to remain true to the original vision of UC Davis School of Law as a small law school of 500-600 total students.

During Barrett's tenure as dean, the School of Law was granted full accreditation by the American Bar Association (even before its first class had graduated) and membership in the American Association of Law Schools.  Student enrollment had grown from 78 in the first class to 182 in the Class of 1971, and the traditions of collegiality, academic excellence, and dedication that continue to define King Hall were already in place.

Edward L. Barrett retired from teaching in 1986, but remained an active legal scholar and active in the King Hall community for many years.  His last visit to the School of Law took place in September 2010, when he attended the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony and Open House celebrating the completion of the King Hall building's new east wing.

Edward L. Barrett is survived by his children, Douglas, Susan, and Kent, and by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 am on Monday, Aug. 15, in the Sunrise Room of the Rogue Valley Manor in Medford, Oregon.  The Barrett family suggests that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Rogue Valley Manor Medical Transportation Fund, 1200 Mira Mar, Medford, OR 97504.