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David P. Currie, University of Chicago Law School Professor, 1936-2007

Oct. 16, 2007

David P. Currie, a constitutional scholar and professor at the University of Chicago Law School for 45 years, died October 15, 2007. The author of 19 books and hundreds of articles, he was 71 years old. Currie’s keen intellect and acumen were widely recognized. Turning scholarship into practice, he was also the author of the 1970 Illinois Environmental Protection Act and the first chair of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Currie was born on May 29, 1936 in Macon, Georgia. He received an A.B. from the University of Chicago in 1957, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1960. Following his graduation from law school, Currie was law clerk first to Court of Appeals Judge Henry J. Friendly and then to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. He joined the University of Chicago Law School faculty in 1962, becoming full Professor of Law in 1968. In 1977, Currie was appointed the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law and in 1991 was named Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law.

Currie authored or co-authored three major casebooks on Federal Courts, Environmental Law, and Conflict of Laws. He is the author of numerous articles in legal periodicals as well as various books - including: The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany (1994) and Air Pollution: Federal Law and Analysis (1982).

Currie is perhaps best known in academic circles for two series of books he wrote about constitutional history. The first, The Constitution in the Supreme Court, was published in two volumes (1985 and 1990), each about a century of the Court’s interaction with the Constitution. The second, The Constitution in Congress, appears in three volumes, The Federalist Period (1997), The Jeffersonians (2001), and Democrats and Whigs (2005).  He was working on the series at the time of his death.

Currie also wrote a widely read book for non-lawyers entitled The Constitution of the United States: A Primer for the People, and in 2006 recorded a reading of the entire text of the Constitution as a gift to the graduating class of the Law School.

Currie has taught at the universities of Frankfort, Hanover, Heidelberg, and Tübingen and the European University Institute in Florence. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985. He was a member of the editorial board and frequent contributor to The Green Bag 2d. Currie was a driving force in its creation.

Currie received the Law School's Graduating Students Award for Teaching Excellence a record four times, most recently from the Class of 2006. During his more than four decades with the University of Chicago Law School, his courses spanned the gamut of the Law School curriculum, including Property and Civil Procedure, a class he taught to generations of first-year students.  He was a beloved teacher, never known for easy classes, but as a demanding teacher for whom students rose to the occasion.

Currie was also well known as an accomplished singing actor and director, most notably of the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan. Currie was an active member of Chicago’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company for more than 40 years, and it is said that he has played nearly every male role in the G&S canon. Currie put his dramatic talent to use in the classroom, to the delight as well as the edification of his students.

A familiar figure in Hyde Park, Currie could be seen bicycling to the Law School, playing with his grandchildren on the lakefront, or watching migrating birds on the Wooded Island in Jackson Park.

Currie is survived by his wife, Barbara Flynn Currie, Majority Leader of the Illinois House of Representatives (D-Chicago), two children, Stephen and Margaret, four grandchildren, Nicholas and Irene Currie and Katherine and David Treskow, his brother Elliott Park Currie, and his sister Carolyn Park Currie.

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Last modified at 03:32 PM CST on Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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