Roger Cramton, a former Michigan Law professor, died February 3 in Ithaca, New York. He was 87.
Cramton joined the Michigan Law faculty in 1962 as an assistant professor. He taught administrative law and conflict of laws until 1973, when he left to become dean of Cornell Law School.
“Roger went from being Nixon’s chief legal counsel to one of the first to call for his resignation,” says Ted St. Antoine, ’54, the James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor of Law Emeritus, who considered Cramton a personal friend as well as a colleague. In 1970, while on leave from Michigan Law, President Richard Nixon appointed Cramton as chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States. He later appointed Cramton as assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. “Had things gone a little differently, I could easily have seen him as a Cabinet member,” St. Antoine says. While serving as Cornell’s law dean, President Gerald Ford also appointed Cramton as the first chairman of the Legal Services Corporation.
“Roger was a powerful figure who could be the soul of kindness—or toughness personified,” says St. Antoine. The two shared a love of the lakes and mountains of their native Vermont. Cramton’s wife, Harriet, called the duo the “Green Mountain Boys.” Another popular topic of conversation was political history, especially presidential biographies, which Cramton enjoyed.
In addition to being a leader in his scholarship, Cramton also was a leader in the Law Quad. “He became one of the most active and influential members of the faculty,” says Jerry Israel, the Alene and Allan F. Smith Professor of Law Emeritus. “Roger chaired several important committees, encouraged faculty participation in the Administrative Conference, and was always available as a sounding board for anybody seeking a rigorous analysis of a potential theme for an article or book.” At the same time, Cramton’s own research continued to expand upon an approach to conflict of laws, which challenged the old-school “mechanical approach,” says Israel. Cramton went on to coauthor a major casebook on conflicts.
“Despite his relative youth, Roger was a leading figure as a member of the Michigan Law faculty. He was very decisive. He always made it quite clear what position he took and, in my opinion, he was almost always right,” says Yale Kamisar, the Clarence Darrow Distinguished University Professor of Law Emeritus.
Cramton is survived by his wife of 62 years, Harriet (Hasselstine) Cramton; his children, Ann Kopinski (Don), Charles (Debbie), Peter (Catherine), and Cutter (Dawn); 11 grand-children; and 21 great-grandchildren.