50th Reunion Memories

Penn 50th Reunion

When I came to Penn in the Fall of 1956, it was my first experience living in a big city and being away from home (in Hyattsville, Maryland) for any length of time.

From the first days I remember: a reception at President Gaylord Harnwell’s home (I had never met anyone named Gaylord either); Dean R. Jean Brownlee telling us that Penn was especially concerned for the education of women; and meeting Rosemary (Bunny) Yaecker, who would be my roommate and life-long friend.

My Penn memories are deeply interwoven with collegiate debate. I especially remember partnership with Edward Cohen for two years and that we won many tournaments and trophies, though probably not as many as I recall. Debate turned out to be the perfect training ground for law school, and at Yale I won the prize for the best moot court presentation in the class.

After Penn and law school: I practiced criminal defense law in the District of Columbia, first with Edward Bennett Williams, and then with Legal Aid, which became the Public Defender Service, and from 1968-1972, I was the first Director of PDS.

In 1972, I became a professor at Stanford Law School, the first woman appointed to the regular faculty. Until retiring in 2005, I taught courses in criminal and civil procedure, sex discrimination law, and women’s legal history.  On leave from Stanford, I served as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division in the Department of Justice in the Carter administration.

Teaching wonderful students during a period of considerable change in the legal profession has been a good life. I have also enjoyed scholarship, especially work on the life of a pioneer in the law, who conceived the idea of the public defender. Woman Lawyer: the Trials of Clara Foltz is forthcoming this year from the Stanford Press.

I have been married to fellow Stanford Law Professor, Tom Grey, for more than thirty years. He too has retired, and spends his creative energy on bird photography now.  Here is a picture of us at a farmer’s market with our grandchild, Dinah Grey Luomanen (7).

Yale 50th Reunion

RE: 50th Reunion Booklet

Barbara Babcock, Class of 63

Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita

Stanford University

  1. A.  First, we ask that you please write a brief bio sketch (500 words max please).

I’ve had a good career run from law clerk for a great federal judge, to bag-carrier for a famous criminal lawyer, to six years in public defense, to first woman on the Stanford Law Faculty to Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, to now when I am a retired law professor, writing my Recollections on a hillside in California. Luckily, along the way, I found the perfect man to marry, Tom Grey, Yale ’68, who is also a retired law professor, and currently a bird photographer.

For the past few years I’ve been involved in publishing and selling a book on the first woman lawyer in the west, who invented the public defender: Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (Stanford U. Press, 2011).  Foltz’s biography has taught me that from a long perspective, everything fits together. Her life was not just one damn thing after another, and neither is mine.

Looking back I think much of my good fortune started at Yale Law School. In my recollections I write that “my fellow students were the main sources of instruction. I believed that the class of 1963 could change the world, and that it was our duty to do it. That was the implicit message of Yale Law School to those it admitted, along with the certain knowledge that we would be successful in whatever we chose to do. I had never before enjoyed such a sense of privilege, or the immense pride of simply being among the chosen.”

  1. B.   In addition to this bio, please include your brief responses (short paragraphs) to the following questions.1-What is your favorite memory of your days at Yale Law School?

Here is the story as I have written it in my Recollections. First, I explain that I never volunteered in class for fear of being wrong, and hurting the reputation of women. But I was always exquisitely prepared and longed to be called upon. One day in the first year, Grant Gilmore called on me in contracts. I was the recipient of the true Socratic method because just by his questions he drew out all this knowledge that I had and I couldn’t even believe it was me saying these things. The interchange lasted the entire hour. Afterwards, my classmates gathered around and said it was a brilliant performance, and I felt that I would be a success in life.

What do you hope to accomplish or experience in the next ten years?

I would like to finish and publish my Recollections, which are mainly about the women’s movement which I joined at the outset of my career. Writing my memories has been in itself, a great experience.

C. On the lighter side, we would also like to include what we call “snapshots” – quick comments (a sentence or two) on the following topics.

1- Best YLS class

Grant Gilmore: Contracts because he opened the study of law to me. See story above.
2- Your personal “hero”

Judge Henry Edgerton because he had women and minority clerks before most others were willing, and he always did what he thought was right.
3- Best place to vacation

Hawaii, because of the zephyrs and sweet people.

4- Your last read

Passionate Minds, David Bodanis –recommended to me by a 17 year old son of a good friend. About Voltaire and Emilie Du Chatelet and every page is interesting, the more so because recommended by a young one.

5- The YLS professor who influenced you the most— Telford Taylor, because his life made it clear that one could do many different things with the law.

Comments are closed.