Emeritus Professor Ted Smedley dies at age 94

Jun 19, 2007

Smedley in 1958Emeritus Professor Theodore (Ted) Smedley, who joined the law school’s faculty in 1957, died of a heart attack on Friday, June 15. Professor Smedley was 94. Although he retired from the law faculty in 1978, he taught classes at Vanderbilt during the 1980s. 

"Ted was one of five faculty members who constituted the heart and soul of the school for a 20-year period," said Associate Dean Don Welch. "He was the prime proponent of what was called ‘the Vanderbilt method,’ the pervasive teaching of professional responsibility throughout the curriculum."

Professor Smedley served as director of the Race Relations Law Reporter, which was established at Vanderbilt in 1956, from 1959 to 1968, after serving as associate director from 1957-59. Funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, the Race Relations Law Reporter was established at Vanderbilt to present in complete, objective fashion the primary legal materials of the time dealing with the subject of race. "It was a unique publication, printing statutes, court decisions, administrative rulings and other legal developments on the Federal, state and local level," Welch, who is the author of a history of Vanderbilt Law School to be released by Vanderbilt University Press this year, said. "It began when there were no commercial reporting services in the field, and catapulted Vanderbilt Law School onto the national scene. At one time the Reporter had a circulation of over 6,000, second only to Harvard Law Review among legal publications."  Although the Ford Foundation discontinued its funding for the Reporter in 1968, it provided three additional years of funding for the more limited Race Relations Law Survey, also edited by Professor Smedley, which was published from 1969 to 1972. He also served as editor of the Race Relations Law Index in 1973-74. 

At Vanderbilt, Professor Smedley taught equity, security transactions, damages, civil rights law and "Profession of Law," a course co-taught with other faculty that addressed professional and public responsibilities.

“Ted was a path-breaking scholar and a gentle and kind mentor and colleague. He was indefatigable in the law professor’s quest for equality and justice,” Nicholas S. Zeppos, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said. “His work made our society more just, and his legacy will be a reminder of our nation’s progress but also our compelling need to continue his work.”

Professor Smedley earned his B.A. at Illinois College in 1935 and his J.D. at Northwestern University in 1938. He began his academic career as assistant professor of law at the University of Wyoming in 1938, and joined the faculty of Washington & Lee School of Law in 1940, where he served as faculty editor of the Washington & Lee Law Review until 1957, when he joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy’s Air Combat Intelligence unit from 1943-46.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 23, at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville.  Visitation with the family is at 11 a.m., with the service at 1 p.m. 

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