Storied law professor George Anastaplo dies

George Anastaplo, 88, a Hyde Parker who became widely known for arguing his own case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday, Feb. 14.

Anastaplo was born Nov. 7, 1925 in St. Louis, Mo., to Greek immigrants Theodore Anastaplo and Margarita Syriopulou. After serving in World War II as a navigator for the U.S Army Air Corps, he was honorably discharged in 1947 and attended the University of Chicago, where he received both his B.A. and J.D.

Anastaplo passed his Bar exam in 1950. However, months later, he was denied from the Illinois Bar Association after its Subcommittee of the Committee on Character and Fitness asked him whether he was a communist; Anastaplo insisted the question was irrelevant. The Committee voted 11-6 not to admit him.

Anastaplo’s appeal made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court, where he argued his own case at the age of 35 — and lost.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s dissent — which Black asked to have read at his own funeral — said, “the entire course of Anastaplo’s life, as disclosed by the record, has been one of devotion and service to his country-first, in his willingness to defend its security at the risk of his own life in time of war and, later, in his willingness to defend its freedoms at the risk of his professional career in time of peace.”

Black added, “This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that Anastaplo has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar.”

A lecturer for the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults of more than 50 years, Anastaplo was also a professor at Dominican University and the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Anastaplo died of prostate cancer.

A memorial service will take place at a later date.