Professor Emeritus Clark Byse, an expert in administrative law and contracts who taught at Harvard Law School for nearly 50 years, died October 9 at the age of 95. A legend on the HLS campus and beyond, Byse wrote the definitive casebook on Administrative law and was also known for his work in support of academic freedom. He is considered by many to be the inspiration for the character of Charles Kingsfield in the movie "The Paper Chase."
"Harvard Law School has lost a legend, many thousands of its graduates have lost the finest teacher they ever had, and all of us have lost a friend," said Dean Elena Kagan '86. "No one cared more deeply about great teaching, and no one communicated that passion more effectively to his students. He insisted on excellence, but always with a twinkle in his eye."
After receiving his B.Ed. degree from Oshkosh State Teachers College in 1935, Byse attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his LL.B. in 1938. He then began his teaching career in 1939 at the University of Iowa. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy and as an attorney with the Board of Economic Warfare. He also spent a brief one-year tenure at the Securities and Exchange Commission after the war before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1946. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1957 as an assistant professor.
Byse was named the Bussey Professor of Law in 1970 and the Byrne Professor of Law in 1976. In 1983, he became professor emeritus and became a visiting professor at the Boston University School of Law.
Byse’s published works include the seminal casebook “Administrative Law: Cases and Comments,” first published in 1954 and now in its 10th edition. HLS Professor Todd Rakoff ’75 collaborated with him on several editions.
In October 1999, the HLS Graduate Program established six S.J.D. fellowships named in Byse’s honor. The Byse Fellowships are awarded to outstanding students in the S.J.D. program who have completed oral examinations, to help fund their dissertation work.
In 2000, Byse was awarded the Harvard Law School Association Award, the highest honor given by the association, for his extraordinary service to the legal profession as well as to the public welfare. That same year, he also received the Silver Shingle Award from Boston University and the Distinguished Columbian in Teaching Award from Columbia Law School, where he received his LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees.