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University of Texas law professor Charles Alan Wright, an internationally recognized expert on Constitutional law and the federal courts and a defender of former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, died on July 7 at North Austin Medical Center in Austin, Texas. The 72-year-old Wright died of complications from recent surgery. Those who knew him remember Wright as a legal giant. “He was the most productive legal scholar of his century,” says Mike Sharlott, outgoing dean of the UT Law school and one of Wright’s former students. Sharlott describes Wright as an “exceptional appellate advocate.” He argued about a dozen times before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning all but two of those cases. “If you get Charles Alan Wright to argue before the United States Supreme Court for you, you’ve got it made. He is an absolute genius,” Pat Hazel, a UT law professor, is quoted as saying in Texas Lawyer‘s “Legal Legends: A Century of Texas Law and Lawyering.” Wright was one of 102 people named legal legends in the book. Wright was senior author of the more than 50-volume “Federal Practice and Procedure” that has been cited as a bible for federal judges. He also was the author of “The Law of Federal Courts” and co-author of “Federal Courts: Cases and Materials.” A leading member of the American Law Institute, Wright became the first professor to serve as president of the group in 1993 and was still serving in that post at the time of his death. The ALI is an organization of lawyers, judges and academicians who work to clarify the law and better adapt it to social needs. Three chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court appointed Wright to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference, on which he served from 1964 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1993. Wright became involved in the controversial defense of Nixon following the effort to cover up the Watergate Hotel break-in, and wrote the brief in the president’s unsuccessful attempt to keep the Oval Office tapes confidential. He spoke at the news conference when it was announced that the tapes would be turned over to U.S. District Judge John Sirica. A 1949 graduate of Yale Law School, Wright spent a year as a law clerk for Judge Charles E. Clark of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York, Vermont and Connecticut, before he began his teaching career at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1950. He joined the University of Texas Law School faculty in 1955. One of the first things that Wright did at UT was create an intramural football team known as the Legal Eagles. Wright coached the team for 35 years. “He has been called the winningest football coach in Texas,” says Betty Owens, a partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston and another of Wright’s former students. Owens says she was the first woman on the Legal Eagles and served as the team’s manager from 1986 to 1988. Wright kept careful records of his coaching “career” and claimed to have compiled a record of 240-40-4, she says. One of the Legal Eagles’ traditions is the annual Beer Bowl that pits current members of the team against the exes, with the losers buying the beer. Beer Bowl lore has it that the game never got rained out, Owens says. “Professor Wright always said that if the Beer Bowl was rained out, he would buy the beer,” she recalls. “He never had to buy the beer.” Wright retired from full-time teaching in 1997, when he turned 70, but continued to teach part-time. With special permission from the UT Board of Regents, he also continued to hold the Charles Alan Wright chair in federal courts, which was created by donations from his friends and former students. “I don’t think there is any question but that he was our greatest faculty member,” Sharlott says.

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