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W. Lee Hargrave Award

Professor Emeritus W. Lee Hargrave

Most law school professors spend a number of years in the legal field before entering academia. But the late Professor Emeritus W. Lee Hargrave was not your stereotypical law school professor. Two months after he graduated LSU Law in 1967, he returned to join the faculty.

“People tend to think about law professors as distant and remote, but Lee was down to earth, brilliant and a man of the highest integrity-everybody liked him,” said LSU Law Professor Ray Lamonica, who was both a student and colleague of Hargrave’s. “He became one of the most respected law professors in the country.”

Before he could begin his 33-year career at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Hargrave first had to complete his undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University. In 1961, he travelled from Morse, Louisiana to become a journalism major and a member of the LSU Tiger Marching Band. The many Saturday nights in Death Valley (otherwise known as “Deaf Valley”) did not hinder his studies. He graduated magna cum laude and first in his class in 1964. Although he didn’t embark on a journalism career, despite brief stints working in the Baton Rouge media, his literary skills would prove fruitful even as a law student.

In his second semester at LSU Law, Hargrave wrote his first note for Louisiana Law Review. “Louisiana Merchant Detention Statute” was published in Issue 4, Volume 25 of the student-edited journal. In his note, Hargrave evaluated the Louisiana Merchant Detention Statute of 1958 and the implications of how Louisiana courts had applied the statute. This would become the first of many law review articles Hargrave would write in his lifetime. By Volume 27, he became Editor-in-Chief.

Through his work as contributor, and later faculty advisor, to Law Review, Hargrave forged many influential connections with students. Class of 1970 graduate Harry Zimmerman first met Hargrave as a 1L when he was admitted to Law Review early.

“I have never met a man with a greater goofy smile or a sunnier personality,” Zimmerman recalled, “and I think my ‘wayward’ personality warmed me up to Lee.” During his third year of law school, Zimmerman received the Best Writer award, which included $500. The award was unexpected for him, but he maintains that it was all part of Hargrave’s master plan.

“I had not admitted it to myself, but we really needed $500,” said Zimmerman, who was raising a family at the same time he was pursuing a law degree. “It didn’t hit me until years later that Lee was responsible for that Best Writer award. He knew I would know it was from him, someday.”

Hargrave would later expand his literary works from law reviews. He published two books and three textbooks altogether. He collaborated with Professor Emeritus Katherine Spaht on “Louisiana Matrimonial Regimes” and “Louisiana Matrimonial Regimes: Cases and Materials.” She also helped with the final footnoting of his book, “LSU Law,” which details the events of the Law Center between 1906 to 1977. Hargrave described the book as “the manuscript … of LSU’s law school from its founding in 1906 until 1977, when its long-term dean Paul M. Hebert died unexpectedly… I try to include all the elements that gave a distinctive mystique to the law school and to the meaning of a law degree from LSU.”

In addition to his exceptional writing abilities, Hargrave was also a renowned expert in constitutional law. He and another LSU Law faculty member helped establish a supreme court in South Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Vietnamese Silver Medal of Justice. During the Louisiana Constitutional Convention in 1973, Hargrave served as coordinator of legal research for the efforts to construct the new state constitution.

Hargrave’s passion for LSU Law never wavered, though, and he always returned to the classroom after his ventures. He still visited the Law Center on a regular basis even after he retired with emeritus status in 2000. When he was diagnosed with cancer and needed frequent blood transfusions, students, faculty, and staff showed up in droves at a blood drive in his support.

After he passed away in November 2002, the Professor W. Lee Hargrave Award was established in his honor.

Hargrave was an esteemed professor, or teacher according to Class of 1977 graduate Rick Richard.

“The title of Professor is a form of respect for those who profess to teach. I prefer teacher because it invokes the image of one who instills the love of learning,” Richard said in an article submission for the LSU Law newsletter in 2003.  “Teachers who instill this love, if you are lucky, can also be your friend. Lee Hargrave was a teacher and a friend of nearly everyone he taught.”

About this Award:

The annual recipient is the Law Review candidate who has rendered the most outstanding overall service to the review for that year.