Campus & Community

Gary Bellow, Legal Education Programs Founder, Dies at 64

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Gary Bellow

Harvard Law School Professor Gary Bellow, the founder and former faculty director of the School’s Clinical Programs and a pioneering public interest lawyer, died on April 13 from cardiac arrest at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. He was a resident of Boston.

Bellow was a specialist in the areas of public interest law and poverty law and was considered to be one of the founders of modern clinical legal education. At Harvard, Bellow inaugurated a new model of clinical legal training in which large numbers of students are exposed to simulated exercises and extensive hands-on practice, under the guidance of Law School faculty and experienced attorneys, at on-site facilities in local communities.

He was a clinical instructor at the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (HLS), the School’s major legal clinic in Jamaica Plain. He co-founded the Center with his wife, Harvard Law School Lecturer Jeanne Charn.

Under Bellow’s leadership, the Law School’s Clinical Programs grew from two courses and three clinical supervisors, to more than 20 courses with more than 35 supervisors and 450 students who represent more than 5,000 clients a year at the Center, the Criminal Justice Institute, student practice organizations, and outside agencies.

“Gary Bellow was a remarkable man and a tremendous, positive influence on legal education and service to the poor,” said HLS Dean Robert C. Clark. “Harvard Law School has lost one of its most distinguished faculty.”

“Gary Bellow’s career, from start to finish, was focused on public service, and his extraordinary legal talents helped clients facing the loss of life, liberty, and property in courtrooms throughout America,” said Jesse Climenko Professor of Law Charles Ogletree, the current director of the HLS Clinical Programs.

“The legal profession and those who must struggle to be served by our system of justice have lost a great teacher and an ardent advocate,” said Hale and Dorr Chairman John Hamilton Jr., who was Bellow’s classmate at HLS. “It was a great privilege to have partnered with him through the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center of the Harvard Law School.”

Bellow was born on June 9, 1935, in New York City. He received an A.B. from Yale University in 1957, a LL.B. in 1960 from Harvard Law School, and a LL.M. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1961. After graduation from law school, Bellow served in the Army from 1961 to 1962. He then embarked on a career dedicated to providing legal services to the poor.

From 1962 to 1965 he served as deputy director of the Legal Aid Agency for the District of Columbia, where he and his colleagues faced an enormous caseload with no job training.

“We discovered the best legal education America had to offer didn’t teach us how to get someone out of a cell block,” he told the Harvard Law Bulletin. He then joined the United Planning Organization in Washington, D.C., a community-organizing group, and served as administrative director in 1965 and as deputy executive director from 1965 to 1968.

Bellow served as deputy director of California Rural Legal Assistance from 1966 to 1968, where he worked on community organizing and legal assistance for migrant farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley. Bellow’s work brought him in contact with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers and in conflict with then—Gov. of California Ronald Reagan.

Bellow served as associate professor of law at the University of Southern California School of Law from 1968 to 1971. He continued his work with the United Farm Workers and added new clients, including the Black Panther Party.

Bellow joined the Harvard faculty in 1971 as a visiting professor of law. He became professor of law in 1972 and Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law in 1993. He served as faculty director of the Clinical Programs from 1992 to 1996.

In 1993, the Law School dedicated a permanent location for Bellow’s Legal Services Center, which was purchased and renovated with support from a $2 million gift from the firm Hale and Dorr, and its partners who were graduates of the Law School.

Bellow’s publications include The Lawyering Process (with Bea Moulton) in 1978, Law Stories (with Martha Minow) in 1996, Professional Responsibility: Materials for Clinical Instruction in Law (with Bea Moulton) in 1982, and many articles in law journals.

He was a member of numerous boards and organizations. He was a consultant to the Council on Legal Education and Professional Responsibility, the United Planning Organization Legal Defender Project and Neighborhood Legal Program in Washington, D.C., the Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Legal Services Corporation. He was a board member of Community Justice Center, Rural Development Corporation, Vera Institute of Justice, Massachusetts Advocacy Center, and Greater Boston Legal Services.

Bellow received many awards including the Access to Justice Award, in 1996; the Massachusetts Bar Association Lifetime Legal Services Award, in 1996; the CRCLLR Award for Outstanding Clinical Legal Teaching, in 1995; the Association of American Law Schools Award for Outstanding Clinical Teaching, in 1985; the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Reginald Heber Smith Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Aid Movement in the United States, in 1968; and the District of Columbia Bar Association Young Lawyers of the Year award, in 1964.

He leaves his wife, Jeanne Charn; two sons, Douglas of Cambridge, Mass., and David; one daughter, Courtenay Kettleson of Medford, Mass.; and sisters, Helaine Gould of Manhasset, N.Y., and Bonnie Bellow of New York City.

Burial will be private. A memorial service will be held at Harvard University at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bellow’s name to the donor’s charity of choice.