Charles Alan Wright

By Reasoner, Harry | Texas Law Review, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Charles Alan Wright


Reasoner, Harry, Texas Law Review


Charles Alan Wright^

We celebrate today the life of one of the greatest, grandest, and most complex men any of us will ever know.1

I speak as one of the five decades of law students that he taught, inspired, and made to believe that the law is not merely a craft, but a high calling.

And, as his friend of 40 years.

As Justice Holmes put it, "the one and only success [a man] can command is to bring to his work a mighty heart."2

In this, Charlie succeeded beyond imagination. His legal scholarship has guided and informed the practice and procedure of all our courts, state and federal, for decades.

He was deeply committed to the Constitution and those freedoms that define America. His favorite case was Barnette,3 where the Supreme Court held that Jehovah's Witnesses could not be required to salute the American flag: "I cherish the American flag and the things for which it stands; I cherish it especially because, since Barnette, it has stood for freedom of thought."4

No one has done more to move the Law School to national prominence. As Justice Ginsburg said, fairly: "Like a Colossus stands Charles Alan Wright at the summit of [the legal] profession. . . ."5

As Dean Laycock pointed out, it was of immense importance to the University that he was our colossus.6

He made the Law School a better place in so many ways. One was as coach of the magnificently successful intramural football team the Legal Eagles. For generations of law students, one of the richest parts of Law School was playing for Coach Wright. He took the job with the utmost seriousness. When our son-in-law-to-be, Bob Stokes, played for him, happily with success, he sent us weekly reports comparing his performance to decades of Legal Eagle statistics.

He was one of the greatest appellate advocates in American history. Arthur Miller, the great Harvard scholar, compared arguing against him to arguing with Moses.7

The law did not cabin the scope of his commitments. He gave of himself greatly in so many ways: to his Church, to his beloved Longhorns, to ending racial discrimination, to St. Stephen's, and more. Any of these would be worthy of being the focus of a memorial talk.

For Macey and me one of life's greatest blessings has been our forty years of friendship with Charlie and Custis.

I worked with Charlie on many cases. It was always a postgraduate education and joy. However good a lawyer I have become, as many others could say, I am far better because of Charlie.

His command of the English language would be admired by Hemingway and Didion. He could produce a page illuminating complex legal questions that would make you feel the heavens had opened.

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