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March 2, 2005

Colleagues' Statements about Robert Dawson

Communications office note: UT Law professors have honored Professor Dawson in many ways: teaching his class, helping with memorial arrangements, helping reporters learn about who Bob Dawson was, and caring for his students and friends. In addition to public and private gestures of friendship, some of Professor Dawson's colleagues made public statements for this Web site. This is not meant to be an exclusive or exhaustive list of public comment, but only one measure of the respect they had for their colleague. They are listed in alphabetical order. Other public statements can be found in this online memorial guestbook:

"He was one of the most helpful, intelligent, and decent people I have ever known."
Jack Getman, Earl E. Sheffield Regents Chair

"Bob was a professor of mine in the late '60s and was instrumental in my choice of criminal law as a career. He gave me my first legal job drafting legislation to set up the state-wide adult probation system as enabling legislation to the 1973 Penal Code Revision (as I was taking and awaiting my bar exam results), and as legend has it, convinced Frank Maloney to hire me as an associate with Stayton, Maloney, Black, Hearne and Babb. In September, 1977, Bob brought me on as the third supervising attorney with the Criminal Defense Clinic. As much as I have to thank Bob for, nothing replaces his role as a constant mentor and friend over the years. I will miss him and the wise counsel and quick wit that he always provided when I needed it."
Kenneth Houp, Criminal Defense Clinic

"Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer 6 years ago, according to the best of my memory. He beat it and then it came back in the other lung and chest cavity 2 years ago. He fought it aggressively and extended his time. He used microphones as the cancer took his voice and a scooter as it took his lungs and taught up to the last 10 days. He knew he was facing as fearsome a thing as exists, his own death, but he used his extra time exceedingly well. He said in the last month that the only time he did not know he was a cancer patient was when he was teaching. In his extra time he also founded the Actual Innocence project.

'We can all free ride off of his bravery. It is easier to imitate a brave example than it is to think it up in the first place. May we all use our short time on earth as well as Bob did."
Calvin Johnson, Andrews & Kurth Centennial Professor

"As Dean Bill Powers said when giving the faculty the sad news about Bob Dawson, he was "a good man." Several years ago, when he seemed to have retired, he stepped back into the classroom in order to help Ken Schubb out in what turned out to be Ken's final illness. It was a characteristically generous gesture, about which Bob simply brushed off compliments. Bob will be missed not only as a scholar and teacher, but also as a model of institutional citizeneship and, ultimately, all-round decency. "
Sandy Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair and Professor of Government

"I have known Bob since 1989, when I did my first visit here. He has always impressed me as being an incredibly intelligent and warm colleague. His immense talents as a teacher and scholar and his dedication to his students are legendary. And, of course, he has had an important impact on the areas of the law in which he was a teacher and scholar—criminal law and juvenile law. He handled the progression of his disease with his typical and exemplary courage and grace, continuing to teach classes and work on his actual innocence project up until the end. I feel very lucky to have known this wonderful human being and have him as a colleague and am so very sad at his passing."
Robert J. Peroni, Parker C. Fielder Regents Professor in Tax Law

"Bob Dawson was the quintessential expert in juvenile law in this state. Legislators consulted him. Judges quoted him. Lawyers revered him.

'He was a kind man who focused our state's juvenile laws on remembering that kids are different and that because they are, the need for laws and social programs that provide and encourage second chances is crucial. We appreciate his leadership."
Pam Sigman, Director, Juvenile Justice Clinic at UT Law School

"'He was a man; take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.'

'Hamlet's words about his father keep returning in my thoughts as I weep today. Even though Bob was only a few years my senior, my love, admiration, and profound respect for him were always, and remain, like those of a son for a father who also happened to be a great man. I know there are many, many others who feel the same way. As Bill puts it so well, he was the consummate, complete law professor. No one in our profession, as far as I know, has been his equal when you add up the whole package. He did it all, so well, so much, so long. Nothing we do as an institution to honor him can ever really match the contributions Bob made to us, to the profession, to the state, to his thousands of fortunate students. But it is important that we memorialize Bob as best we can. He was simply the best, and we must say so.

'Even though this day has been coming for a while, and is welcome in a way because Bob's suffering has ended, I feel such pain, such loss. On top of everything else, Bob was just so much fun to be with. I spent so many hours wasting his time so I could enjoy his wonderful sense of humor and his beautiful outlook on life. There is a huge hole in our world, and in my heart."
Guy Wellborn, William C. Liedtke, Sr. Professor