New Boalt archive illuminates school’s past
Reunion exhibit offers a sampling, both serious and offbeat, from law library’s trove

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs


Left: Future Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (front row, third from left) appears with his 1908 graduating class at Kern County High School in Bakersfield, Calif.Classmates poked fun at his hairdo in their “class prophecy,” a humorous foretelling of grads’ futures. Warren’s read, in part: “On the corner an old street fake stands / And the attention of the passing crowd commands / His specialty is ‘Warren’s New Hair Dope,’ /Put up in form of tonic and of soap....”
Photo courtesy of Boalt Hall Law School Archives

16 October 2002 | Long before he ran for U.S. vice president or authored the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, a young Berkeley law student named Earl Warren danced the two-steps “Pony Boy” and “Splash Me” and waltzed with Dorothy P. and Misses Jay and Eggert at the 1910 sophomore hop. Warren’s tasseled dance card — along with a trove of intriguing items from the childhood, Berkeley years, and early legal career of the future chief justice — will be on display later this month, when the Boalt Hall School of Law unveils a new archive documenting its long and distinguished past.

William Benemann, head of technical services at the law library, has spent two years culling library collections and newly donated materials for the new Boalt Hall Law School Archives. Its material runs the gamut from century-old course catalogs to a first-year-student “face book” whose pages include one of the school’s most renowned students, Doonesbury character Joanie Caucus (’77). “Once I announced the archives,” says Benemann, “people started sending literally cartons of stuff.”

The Berkeley campus offered its first law classes in 1881-82 and in 1894 established the Department of Jurisprudence, which became the School of Jurisprudence in 1912. (The Boalt Hall building opened in 1911, with funds donated in memory of Judge John Henry Boalt.) The oldest item in the archives, so far, is a listing of campus courses in jurisprudence for the 1894-95 academic year. The nascent repository also includes Boalt Hall coffee mugs, a moot-court trophy, faculty photos from decades past, reports on curriculum development, building plans, and papers and biographical materials on historically significant law school figures.

One of them was William Prosser, editor of a legal classic on the law of torts and dean of the school from 1948 to 1961. Prosser helped put the law school on the map, says Law Professor Robert Berring, director of the law library. “He remade the field of tort law,” he says, but was also “a crazy, Renaissance guy.”

“I always thought of him as a grim sort of man, ‘Prosser on Torts,’” says Benemann, “but he had a wicked sense of humor.” Archive visitors can view Prosser’s comic lyrics, adapted from Broadway musicals to lampoon law school life, as well as letters he wrote to his mother during his tenure as dean.

Boalt graduate Teresa Meikle, the school’s first alumna (class of 1919) to be appointed to a judgeship, is the subject of a large cache of photos and news articles shedding light on the role of professional women in the 1930s and 1940s. Described by the San Francisco Call newspaper — in a manner characteristic of the era — as “a young woman and pretty, daintily dressed, with clever eyes,” Meikle was a politically active Republican and the first female to serve on the San Francisco municipal-court bench.

Selections from the new collection will debut at Boalt Hall’s All-Alumni Reunion on Saturday, Oct. 26 — a daylong celebration featuring panel discussions on topics including the ramifications of Enron’s demise and the nation’s foreign-policy and military responses to global terrorism. One exhibit case, labeled “The Boy Who Would Be Chief,” is devoted to Earl Warren — who earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Cal, in 1912 and 1914, and went on to serve three terms as California governor and 16 years as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

With displays, as well, on Caucus, Meikle, and Prosser, the archive’s opening exhibit hits just the right note, says Berring. “I like the balance of Joanie Caucus and William Prosser,” he says. “It’s partly substantive and partly fun, which is what reunions are about.”

The Boalt Hall Law School Archive is housed in 225A Boalt Hall, at the east entrance to the library. After its Oct. 26 debut, the room will be open from noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, and by appointment.

For information, contact William Benemann at or 642-8722.


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail