PUBLISHED:October 24, 2016

Professor Emeritus Maxwell dies at 97

Duke Law Professor Emeritus Richard Callender Maxwell

Richard Callender Maxwell, the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor Emeritus of law, died in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 7, 2016, his 97th birthday.

Maxwell, an expert in oil and gas law, joined the Duke Law faculty as the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law and director of Continuing Legal Education in September 1980 after serving as a visiting professor in the previous academic year. He took emeritus status at Duke in 1989 but continued to teach on a part-time basis until 1994.

Maxwell came to Duke after a long career at the UCLA School of Law, where he was a member of the faculty from 1953 through 1981 and served as dean from 1958 to 1969. At UCLA, where he remained dean emeritus and the Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, he was remembered as a transformational figure credited with taking the school from its “modest early years” to a position of prominence in legal education.

“Dick Maxwell was among the most celebrated and respected law professors of his generation,” said Paul Carrington, who now also holds the title Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor Emeritus of Law and who, as dean in 1979, recruited Maxwell to Duke Law. “He had served as dean at UCLA for a decade and was president of the Association of American Law Schools in 1972. He had published numerous books and was the leading scholar on the subject of oil and gas law.

“As an eminent senior scholar, Dick provided very valuable professional leadership for the younger members of our faculty,” said Carrington. “He was at all times charming to students as well as to colleagues. He took a special interest at Duke in the establishment of the Private Adjudication Center.”

A Minneapolis native, Maxwell attended the University of Minnesota, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Law in 1941. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and then returned to the University of Minnesota, where he received his Bachelor of Laws in 1947.

Maxwell taught at the University of North Dakota as an associate professor from 1947 to 1949 and at the University of Texas from 1949 to 1953, becoming a professor in 1951. He also served as counsel at Amerada Petroleum Corporation before joining the UCLA Law faculty in 1953. He served as a visiting professor at many law schools in the United States and abroad and received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from California Western University (1983) and Southwestern University (1993).

Among his many professional appointments, Maxwell served as chair of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (1971-1972); president of the Association American Law Schools (1972); chair of the Advisory Committee on Law for the Fulbright Program (1971-1974); chair of the Advisory Committee for the United Kingdom Fulbright Program (1974-1977); and a member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors. He was the longtime West Coast editor for the Oil and Gas Reporter, and served as a member of the law school editorial and advisory board for West Public Company from 1971 to 1994. (Read more.)

His faculty colleagues at Duke Law fondly remember both Maxwell and his wife, Frances, who predeceased him.

“When Dick joined our faculty, he loved to explain his move from UCLA to Duke by chirping in his typical up-beat manner, ‘I just decided it was time to repot myself,’” said James Cox, the Brainerd Currie Professor of Law. “That he did. He and Frances quickly established roots in Duke and Durham and encircled all of us in their energy, optimism, and good sense. There was no better colleague. He was deeply interested in the work of each faculty member, was a wise counselor at faculty meetings (recall that he was elected chair of the Dean Search Committee that led to the selection of Pamela Gann), worked hard at mentoring his younger Duke colleagues, and was especially devoted to inserting many of us into the workings of our accrediting bodies as well as the American Law Institute.

“What most amazed me about Dick is that he related so well to everyone, whether that be President Brodie, his diverse colleagues, a wide sector of the students (he won the teaching award soon after arriving), and, yes, he not only knew the names of each member of the cleaning staff, he could go toe-to-toe with plumbers, HVAC, etc. I was in awe of how any person with such intelligence, success in so many areas, and in such high demand could at the same time give of himself to the institution and his colleagues. Duke was fortunate that Dick repotted himself amidst us.”

Sara Sun Beale, the Charles L. B. Lowndes Professor of Law, also recalls Maxwell as a “splendid colleague.”

“He was gregarious and adventurous, and he helped to develop a great sense of community among our rapidly expanding faculty,” said Beale, who joined the Duke Law faculty in 1979.  “He and Frances were the oldest faculty members to join a large group that went whitewater rafting in the mountains.

“Dick was a wise counselor to young faculty members like me, giving advice with unforgettable warmth and humor. Here’s an example of one of his stories: After his first semester of teaching, a junior faculty member was dismayed to see a long line of students waiting to see him. In response to Dick’s question, he acknowledged that he’d reviewed one student’s exam earlier that day and raised the grade because the student pointed out where he could have been given a little more credit on some answers. But now every other student in the class was waiting to see him. Why, the distraught young professor asked, didn’t you tell me not to raise anyone’s grade? Dick’s response was a classic: ‘I never told you not to put beans up your nose.’

“Needless to say, I never considered changing a grade, and I tried not to put any beans up my nose,” said Beale.

A service for Maxwell will be held Oct. 29 in Minneapolis. The Maxwell family requests that donations in Maxwell’s honor be directed to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.