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LAW PROFESSOR JOHN R. KRAMER; LED GU'S LEGAL CLINIC PROGRAM
By Joe Holley,
Washington Post Staff Writer
John R. Kramer, 68, a former
associate dean and professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and a
pioneer in the establishment of legal clinics both at Georgetown and at Tulane
University, died March 7 of complications of diabetes at his home in New
Mr. Kramer had been working on
Capitol Hill when he joined the Georgetown University law school in 1976 as
associate dean for clinical education. During his 10 years as dean, he created a
program that became a national leader in clinical education and public service.
The clinical program he
championed at Georgetown is designed to give law students practical experience
while providing legal representation to under-represented individuals and
organizations. Mr. Kramer encouraged law students to work in areas of importance
to him, including poverty, immigration, housing, civil rights and environmental
As dean of the law school at
Tulane from 1986 to 1996, he started a law clinic to serve poor people in New
Orleans and made Tulane the first law school in the United States to require a
specific number of community service hours for graduation. Under his leadership,
African American students came to constitute a greater percentage of the law
school student body than in any other non-historically black law school.
A cheerful and outspoken liberal,
he relished controversy. At Tulane, he publicly defended the law school's
Environmental Clinic when it ran afoul of powerful chemical and oil companies in
Louisiana. He also defended the Tulane Appellate Advocacy Program's involvement
in a Supreme Court suit against a local utility. During his tenure, Tulane also
published the nation's first gay law journal.
Mr. Kramer was born in New York
City and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1958. He was a
Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge University in 1958-59 and received his law degree
from Harvard Law School in 1962. He clerked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for
Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme
In 1965, he became counsel to
U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) on the House Committee on Education and
Labor, handling anti-poverty legislation and the first Higher Education Act. As
executive director of the National Council on Hunger and Malnutrition in the
late 1960s and 1970s, he drafted much of the existing legislation on food stamps
and school meals. He also created the Project for Older Prisoners, which offers
legal advice and representation to elderly prisoners with long sentences.
In 1975, when Rep. Thomas S.
Foley (D-Wash.) took over as chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Mr.
Kramer became his special counsel. He continued in that position after moving to
Georgetown's law school.
"John was one of the most
intelligent, brightest people I've ever met," said Foley, a former speaker of
the House. "He had a quicksilver mind and was able to ingest an unbelievable
amount of information and data. At the same time, he had a warmth of spirit that
was absolutely infectious."
His wife, Sandra Scarbrough
Kramer, noted that Mr. Kramer loved Capitol Hill, particularly the House, and he
loved the history of the law. "He was a product of his times, and there were so
many issues that were bigger than the law," she said, noting that academic law
allowed him to indulge his multiplicity of interests.
lived life large and exuberant," Wally Mlyniec, his successor at Georgetown as
associate dean, said in a prepared statement. "At Georgetown he was a brilliant,
yet amusing and accessible teacher. Students loved him, and his colleagues
As an attorney he represented a
wide range of clients, including the Federal Employees Against the War in
Vietnam, the Mattachine Society, Students for a Democratic Society, the National
Pork Producers (to allow them to call pork the other white meat) and the United
Gamefowl Breeders of American (to preserve cockfighting in Louisiana).
He was president of the Field
Foundation from 1981 to 1991 and founding chair of the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities from 1981 to 2002. He also was consulting editor of "Hunger
USA" (1969) and the author of "Hunger USA Revisited" (1972).
His marriage to Deborah Dammon
ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 38
years, of New Orleans; two sons from his first marriage, Dr. Christopher Kramer
of Charlottesville and Daniel R. Kramer of New York City; a stepson, Gladstone
N. Jones III of New York City and New Orleans; and a son from his second
marriage, Andrew L. Kramer of New Orleans; a sister; a stepbrother; and five
Mr. Kramer loved New Orleans and,
after Hurricane Katrina, was concerned about the split between black and white
communities in the city and about the deep-rooted poverty the hurricane exposed.
Although he wasn't Catholic and wasn't black, his concern about race relations
prompted his family to hold his funeral at St. Augustine's Catholic Church,
which is in the oldest predominantly African American parish in New Orleans and
is now scheduled for closure.
CORRECTION-DATE: March 14,
The March 10 obituary of law professor John R. Kramer incorrectly stated that he
was the creator of the Project for Older Prisoners and described the project as
dealing with older prisoners serving longer sentences. The project was created
by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley and does not focus
exclusively on prisoners serving longer sentences.
Also, Mr. Kramer started working
at Georgetown University in 1970, not 1976.
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