Berman’s Work Honored by Emory Law Journal, Memorial

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Harold J. Berman, 1918-2007

By Stacey Harwell

The work of the late Harold J. Berman (1918-2007), Emory University’s first Robert W. Woodruff Professor, is honored in the current issue of Emory Law Journal and in a display of his writings and personal collectables in the library of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR).

Often described as “the founding father of the modern study of law and religion” who inspired the creation of the CSLR, Berman produced scholarship that altered western perception of Russian legal studies and greatly influenced thinking about the role religion has played in shaping the Western legal tradition.

Emory Law Journal (Vol. 57, No.6) includes tributes from 18 scholars, students, and friends. Among those featured are Emory professors, as well as professors from China, where Berman’s work is widely known and highly popular, and colleagues from Russia, the geographical focus of Berman’s early legal work. The tributes are testimonies not only to his prolific works in legal scholarship, but also to the warmth of his personality and depth of his commitment to the profession of teaching.

“Hal did what few other American law professors were willing to do in the 1950s: he turned with an open and inquiring mind to the relationship of Christianity, law, and justice,” writes Frank S. Alexander, professor of law and CSLR founding director. “Hal taught me the conviction of things not seen, of an open and inquiring mind, of courage to assert and to accept, and of gratitude.”

Long-time colleague and former student of Berman, John Witte, Jr., relays the story of their last meeting, where between Berman’s naps, Witte shared news from Emory, read portions of T.S. Elliot and Moby Dick, and reflected with him upon faith and theology.  Witte, Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and CSLR director, called this experience “vintage Hal Berman – showing faithful love for his family and friends, his youthful glee about life and literature, his relentless drive to study and learn, his trademark gift to transcend bonds and boundaries, in search of knowledge and reconciliation.”

That search for knowledge led Berman to author 25 books and 400 articles, many of which are now housed in the CSLR library, along with a newly installed Harold J. Berman Memorial. In addition to selected books, the memorial showcases memorabilia, photographs, and translations of his works, highlighting the truly global nature of his influence.  The CSLR library is located in the CSLR suite on the third floor of Gambrell Hall and is open to faculty, staff, and students during regular business hours.

In addition, some 6,000 pages of Berman’s articles, book chapters, speeches, and book reviews are being digitized by Emory’s Woodruff Library staff and will be available online in 2009.

Witte, to whom Berman bequeathed responsibility for the care and dissemination of his scholarship, adds, “We want Hal’s great work to continue to influence scholars around the world in hopes that some day his goal of world peace through world law will be achieved.”

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