Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, AB’41, will speak at International House at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3, in a College-sponsored event to coincide with the launch of his new Supreme Court memoir, Five Chiefs. Doors will open at 5 p.m.; audience members are advised to arrive early, as seating is limited.
The event at I-House will be open to the public at the building’s Assembly Hall. The University also will do a live webcast of the event, including display on the “UChicago Live” tab at the UChicago Facebook page.
This will be Stevens’ first public visit to campus since 2002. A native of Hyde Park, Stevens attended the Laboratory Schools at the University from kindergarten through high school, then studied English and was an active campus presence as a student in the College.
He went on to become the third-longest-serving Justice in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, and had the unusual distinction of interacting with five different Chief Justices over the course of his legal career. Those interactions are the focus of his new book. They began with his experience as a young law clerk observing Chief Justice Fred Vinson during the Truman administration, and continued with his role as a lawyer before Chief Justice Earl Warren. He served on the Court alongside three Chief Justices — Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and current Chief Justice John Roberts.
“I hope that my recollections will improve public understanding of their work and the office that they each occupied with honor and varying degrees of expertise,” Stevens writes in the introduction to his new book.
The evening will begin with a public discussion between Stevens and Dennis Hutchinson, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and director of the College’s Law, Letters and Society program. Hutchinson is the author of The Man Who Once Was Whizzer White: A Portrait of Justice Byron H. White, and serves as co-editor of the Supreme Court Review, along with Law School Professors Geoffrey Stone and David Strauss. The discussion with Stevens and Hutchinson will last about 40 minutes, followed by about 20 minutes for a Q&A with the audience.
“No other legal figure in our time has seen as much of the Supreme Court in so many of its facets as Justice John Paul Stevens,” Hutchinson said. “We are honored that he is returning to the University of Chicago for this event, and we look forward to a lively and enlightening discussion.”
The College’s Law, Letters and Society program is co-sponsoring the event along with the office of University Communications and the Global Voices Lecture Series at International House.
Stevens has traced his preparation as a lawyer to his time at the College, where he studied writing with the novelist Norman Maclean, PhD’40, author of A River Runs Through It and other works.
“The study of English literature, especially lyric poetry, is the best preparation for the law,” Stevens said in a 1979 speech at the University.
He went on to receive his law degree from Northwestern University, and returned briefly to the University of Chicago in the 1950s as a lecturer at the Law School. When President Ford nominated Stevens to the Supreme Court in 1975, it was with the recommendation of U.S. Attorney General Edward Levi, a former UChicago president and dean of the Law School.
The University of Chicago Alumni Association in 2002 awarded Stevens the Alumni Medal, the highest honor the organization can bestow. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Laboratory Schools in 2001.
There will be a webcast viewing area available at I-House if all the seats in Assembly Hall are taken. In addition to the webcast, students on campus can watch the event through cTV.