Erwin Nathaniel Griswold

Erwin Nathaniel Griswold

Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Death 19 Nov 1994 (aged 90)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Plot Willow Pond Knoll, Lot 11000, Space C357
Memorial ID 147576798 · View Source
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Erwin Griswold Is Dead at 90; Served as a Solicitor General
Published: November 21, 1994


Erwin N. Griswold, the United States Solicitor General under two Presidents, and for more than 20 years dean of the Harvard Law School, died on Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 90.Mr. Griswold was a resident of Belmont, Mass., and Washington. The Harvard Law School announced his death on Saturday night, but the cause was not given.A statement released by the Harvard Law School called him "a champion of civil rights and a foe of McCarthyism."Elliot L. Richardson, the Attorney General during the Nixon Administration and a longtime friend of Mr. Griswold's, said, "He was an extraordinary man in many ways, not least in the discipline he imposed on himself to be fair."He was a man of extremely keen intellect, and he was sometimes impatient with what he thought was shoddy or wrong or meretricious. But he was also quite capable, if he thought he'd overreacted, of apologizing and correcting himself."The faculty at Harvard, Mr. Richardson said, held Mr. Griswold in "a certain reverence for what he had done and what he had stood for." "And everybody called him 'the Dean,' no matter who had succeeded him," Mr. Richardson said. "And those who did succeed him were not jealous." A 1960 profile of Mr. Griswold in The New York Times described him as a "lifelong Republican with a background of Midwest conservatism," who "is built like a granite block and is just as inflexible in his conceptions of basic rectitude." A native of East Cleveland, Ohio, Erwin Griswold was born on July 14, 1904. He received a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1925, and three years later graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law School. For a brief time after graduation, he was with the firm of Griswold, Green, Palmer & Hadden in Cleveland, but he soon joined the Solicitor General's office in Washington.As a staff lawyer for the Solicitor General, he became an expert at arguing tax cases before the Supreme Court, principally because no one else in the office wanted to handle them, and he became known as one of the great legal scholars in the tax field.When he left Washington to return to Harvard in 1934, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, citing Mr. Griswold's ability to win tax judgments, declared that his departure would cost the Government a great deal of money.Invited in 1934 to teach at Harvard Law School as an assistant professor, he said he would try it out. A year later, he was made a full professor. In 1946 he became dean of the law school, a position he held until 1967. In that time he was a -- and many would say the -- dominant figure in American legal education.In his time as dean, he doubled the size of the faculty. He also oversaw the enrollment of the first female students in 1950 and lived to see one of the earliest, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, become a Supreme Court Justice.In honor of his contributions, in 1979 Harvard dedicated Griswold Hall, which houses the dean's office, faculty offices and a classroom.In the early 1950's, Mr. Griswold denounced Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in his book "The Fifth Amendment Today," which examined the constitutional protection against self-incrimination.The 1960 profile of Mr. Griswold in The Times said that "when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was in full cry against the use of the Fifth Amendment by witnesses accused of Communist ties, one of the most forceful voices in defense of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination was raised by Dean Erwin Nathaniel Griswold of the Harvard Law School."Later, Mr. Griswold served as an expert witness for Thurgood Marshall, who was then the legal director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in several of the cases that the association brought to lay the foundation for the Supreme Court's desegregation order in Brown v. Board of Education. And he later served on the United States Civil Rights Commission under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.In 1965, when public opinion was swinging against the Supreme Court for what some felt was coddling of criminals, Mr. Griswold made a speech titled "The Long View," which detailed how years of neglect and injustice in state courts had forced the Supreme Court to step in and make them improve their procedures.Two years later, Mr. Griswold retired as dean of Harvard Law to become Solicitor General under President Johnson, supporting the Great Society legislation. He continued to serve in that post under President Richard M. Nixon.During the Nixon years, in accordance with his position as Solicitor General, Mr. Griswold supported the Administration's more conservative positions. He argued, in one case, that the Supreme Court should block Dr. Benjamin Spock and three other minority party candidates from campaigning among soldiers stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. In another case, he argued that the armed forces were not practicing sex discrimination when they automatically discharged pregnant servicewomen.And in one of the most celebrated cases of the time, he supported the Administration's position that the courts should bar The Times and other newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers, a secret Department of Defense history of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that publication could not be enjoined.In 1989 Mr. Griswold wrote that he had "never seen any trace of a threat to the national security from the publication." With characteristic candor, he added, "There's a good deal of difference between foresight and hindsight, and as of that time (1971) I thought there was substantial risk" to the national security.As a private lawyer, after joining the firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington in 1973, Mr. Griswold continued arguing cases before the Supreme Court. He also served as president of the Association of American Law Schools from 1957 to 1958, and of the American Bar Foundation from 1971 to 1974.Mr. Griswold is survived by his wife, Harriet, whom he married in 1931; a brother, James of Exeter, N.H.; a sister, Hope Curfman of Denver; a daughter, Hope Murrow of Cambridge, Mass.; a son, William, of Belmont, Mass., and five grandchildren.
Griswold, Law School Legend, Dies at 90
NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED November 21, 1994

Former Dean of Harvard Law School and U.S. Solicitor General Erwin N. Griswold, one of the most profoundly important figures in American law, died on Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 90.Griswold was a dominating figure on the Harvard Law School faculty for 33 years, 21 of them as dean."This whole place was his creation," said Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Charles Fried.He left the Law School in 1967 to assume the post of U.S. Solicitor General, a position in which he went on to argue more cases before the Supreme Court than any other man in his lifetime.

Shaping the Law School

"Erwin Griswold can be a brusque, even abrasive man," an editorial in The Harvard Crimson said in 1967, following the announcement of his retirement. "And it sometimes surprises those who meet and work with him that he is a good man and a very great dean of Harvard Law School."

Leading the Law School toward his vision of internationalization, Griswold doubled the size of the faculty without changing the size of the student body. He was responsible for the development of the Law School's International Legal Studies Program and the International Tax Program.Griswold firmly believed in the necessity of applying legal concepts to current concerns."If the Harvard Law School, through its faculty activity and teaching, could shift its concern from the narrow objectives of much traditional legal scholarship, we might increase our contribution," Griswold said in 1967 at the 150th anniversary of the Law School in what many consider to be his greatest speech."I don't know how to start assessing what he meant to the Law School and the law," Former Dean of the Law School James Vorenburg said. "He was bigger than life."At a time when American liberties were under attack from sexists, racists and McCarthyites alike, Griswold often stood alone as a champion of civil rights.When the Law School admitted its first women students in 1950, Griswold oversaw and initiated the transformation. In fact, he lived to see one of those first female students--Ruth Bader Ginsberg--take her place on the Supreme Court.When anti-Communist hysteria reached its peak under McCarthy's one-man Senate committee, Griswold appeared on Edward R. Murrow's well-known television program "See It Now" and denounced the "corruptive investigating practices of headline-seeking Congressional committees."And when Blacks faced seemingly insurmountable segregation in Southern schools, Griswold served as an expert witness in several of the cases used to lay the foundation for the Supreme Court's desegregation order in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.Griswold also served on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission under Presidents John F. Kennedy '40 and Lyndon B. Johnson."[Griswold] was one of the giants of the American legal education and the American legal profession," said the present Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark."He was a person of tremendous integrity and knowledge and, as such, was a premier model of what a lawyer should be for generations of law students and lawyers across the country, and around the world."Griswold received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Oberlin College and then went on to Harvard Law School, serving as president of the Harvard Law Review from 1927 to 1928. He graduated summa cum laude and first in his class in 1928 and received the S.J.D. in 1929.Griswold also holds 32 honorary degrees, most notably from Harvard in 1953 and Oxford University in 1964.After a brief stint as a private lawyer following his graduation, Griswold became an attorney with the Solicitor General's office. He quickly rose to the position of Special Assistant to the Attorney General.Griswold left Washington, D.C. for Cambridge in 1934 to serve as an assistant professor at the Law School. He held that post for only one year before gaining the Charles Stebbins Fairfield Professorship. Griswold received the Langdell Professorship in 1950 and retained it until he took Emeritus status upon retirement.President Johnson, a Democrat, called the Republican Griswold in 1967 asking him to return to the U.S. Solicitor General's Office--this time as its head.Griswold accepted and continued to serve under President Richard M. Nixon. He finally retired more than six years and 100 Supreme Court cases later."It's very hard to get used to the idea that he's not active anymore," said Vorenburg.

A Celebrated Career

Griswold remained active in the legal profession, serving as a partner at the D.C. law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue since 1973.He spent much of his 65-year legal career concerned with federal taxation, authoring "Spendthrift Trusts" in 1936 and editing "Cases on Conflict of Laws," among numerous other publications.Even as an assistant attorney fresh out of law school, Griswold distinguished himself while arguing complicated tax cases before the Supreme Court.Griswold served as President of the Association of American Law Schools in 1957 and 1958, and of the American Bar Foundation from 1971 to 1974.He also stood as a trustee of the Harvard Law Review Association and was honorary chairman of the Campaign for Harvard Law School, the School's current fundraising effort.The American Bar Association awarded him the ABA Gold Medal in 1978, its highest award, for conspicuous service to the legal profession and the cause of justice in the U.S.In honor of his contributions, the Law School dedicated Griswold Hall in 1979, which houses the Dean's office, faculty offices and a classroom.He leaves his wife, Harriet Allena; a son, William E. Griswold of Belmont; a daughter, Hope E. Murrow of Cambridge; a brother, James Griswold of Exeter, N.H.; a sister, Hope Curfman of Denver; and five grand-children.The funeral will be private. A memorial service will be held at a later date

Bio information provided by Starfishin (#48860385).

Family Members



Erwin Nathaniel
July 14, 1904 - November 19, 1994
Harriet (Ford)
December 25, 1904 - November 23, 1999

Gravesite Details interred 11/26/1994--Link to parents provided by Angela Kenny (#47427368)

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  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Erwin Nathaniel Griswold (14 Jul 1904–19 Nov 1994), Find a Grave Memorial no. 147576798, citing Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Mayflower Pilgrim 332 (contributor 47081711) .