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Magic was the word for Walton Hamilton, who died this past October, seventy-seven years young. There was magic in his manner of teaching—no rigid laying out of rules, no question-and-answer quiz show, no cat-and-mouse sparring with students with the mouse predoomed to defeat. Rather, the subtle inference that sank in slowly, the oblique suggestion like a sign-post dimly seen at dusk and hence far better remembered; he might be called the precursor of the hidden persuaders, except that he had nothing to sell save his own warm-wise way of looking at law and the world. There was magic too in his manner of writing—the soft stab, the tangential epigram that had to be read twice and then yielded ten times its surface meaning; his every line of prose was imbued with latent poetry. And there was magic in the manner of man he was—a gentle southerner out of Tennessee whose shuffling bounce belied his inner firmness but betrayed his outer shyness, a Carl Sandburg sort of man in humor and simplicity, a man whose intellectual questings and excitements brushed off on everyone he taught or knew.
Hammy and I came to the Yale Law School together in the fall of 1928, just thirty years ago—and though he came as professor, I as student, we had one thing in common: neither of us had ever been to a law school before. He had taught in secondary schools and at the Universities of Texas and Michigan and Chicago; he had taught at Amherst (and quit when its president, his close friend Alexander Meiklejohn, was fired) and at the Brookings School in Washington; he had taught medieval history and economics and something called political economy. He had never taught, or formally studied, law.
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