A memorial service for Sara Prince Anastaplo will be held on Saturday, April 7th, at 2:00 p.m., at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, located in Hyde Park at 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. (the corner of 59th Street and Woodlawn Ave.).

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Sara Prince Anastaplo Obituary, January 19, 2018


Sara Prince Anastaplo died on January 15, 2018. She was born on September 3, 1926, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to Clarence Elmer Prince and Helen Corinne (Davidson) Prince. She graduated from the University of Texas (Austin) in 1947, and soon thereafter moved to Chicago, Illinois to attend the University of Chicago, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in Social Work. In January 1949, she married George Anastaplo. Together, they lived in Woodlawn and then Hyde Park for their entire 65-year marriage.

In addition to raising their four children and managing the household, Sara worked as a fact checker for the popular TV quiz show, College Bowl, graded papers for the correspondence high school, The American School, and for several years coordinated the annual update of the University of Chicago Directory. She was very active in the University of Chicago Service League, including the Drama and Italian Groups, and she also studied Chinese at Crossroads on Blackstone Avenue. She greatly enjoyed the cultural offerings at the University of Chicago and in the city, especially Lyric Opera and the Basic Program, where George taught during most of their marriage.

Perhaps most of all, Sara loved to travel. She spent nine months in Paris as a young woman, and returned regularly to Europe, including twice for extended camping trips with the entire family throughout Europe. She also traveled throughout the U.S. and to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Turkey, Egypt, the Sinai, China, India, Indonesia, and Tahiti, and spent many summers in Rome while George taught at Loyola Law School’s summer program there.

Sara is survived by her four children, Helen Scharbach Newlin, George Malcolm Davidson Anastaplo, Miriam Irene Redleaf, and Theodora McShan Anastaplo, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, and by her three siblings, C.E. Prince, Jr., Helen Prince Furlong, and John F. Prince. Her husband, George, predeceased her in February 2014.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Chicago Methodist Senior Services, for the benefit of Wesley Place, located at 1415 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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Curator’s Note: February 14, 2016

John Metz

At the beginning of his public presentations George Anastaplo often noted significant events associated with the date of the lecture or class. It thus seems appropriate that this posting be made on the second anniversary of his death.

Recently a special monograph on the life and work of George Anastaplo was published by Dialegs, an academic journal focused on social and political studies, originating from the INEHCA Foundation in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain ( This issue was edited and coordinated by Professor Josep Monserrat, Dean of the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Barcelona, and Aida C. Rodríguez, researcher, lecturer and Ph.D. student at Ramon Llull University (twitter: @AidaC_Rodriguez). The cover of the issue is shown here:


Below are posted the English versions of the essays by Aimee Anderson and me that were published in the journal in Catalan. As presented in the Journal, Aimee’s essay was introduced:


Aimee B. Anderson received her JD degree from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in 1984, having been a student in George Anastaplo’s first constitutional law seminar at that institution. After a national trial law practice for almost thirty years, Ms. Anderson took up editing, in the course of which she helped Anastaplo to produce the final two books of his Reflections series that were completed before his death.


George Anastaplo had an immense influence over many of those with whom he came into contact, either through his teaching, lectures, writings, or on an individual basis. His finest qualities, an insatiable curiosity, an unwavering courage, and the rare ability to evaluate the present while in the present, seem to have been a part of his character even at an early age, and they informed his actions throughout his life. Some of the episodes of Anastaplo’s life may have provided the source of these qualities, and others demonstrate their far-reaching effect.

My essay, which may be viewed as a foreword to Anastaplo’s blog, was introduced:


John Metz received his B.A. degree from Saint Louis University in 1970, about the time he first encountered reports of George Anastaplo’s difficulties with the Illinois Bar. After performing alternative service at The University of Chicago Hospital instead of military service during the Vietnam War, he completed a Ph.D. in Biopsychology from The U. of C. in 1978 and pursued a research career in academic and private sectors. He continues research on sleep, mental illnesses, and neuroimaging.


George Anastaplo believed that thoughtful human beings could discern an underlying order in the world in which we live. He was often critical of aspects of modern life, including the ever-spreading influence of technology and specifically of computers. His blog ( developed from numerous chance events. Nevertheless, the blog was consistent with his behavior throughout his life and with his style of teaching.

As suggested in my essay, the blog was always a developing project. Whereas the blog should be viewed as complete as it stands, there were a number of features intended for inclusion that were not finished but may be useful to individual users of the blog. In particular, we were developing a “Scholar’s Version,” every word of whose contents could be found and viewed in context with the tools of a computer. This was to function somewhat like a concordance, one of Anastaplo’s favorite aids to research. Although it is still incomplete, I would be willing to share it on an “as is” basis with anybody who requests it by email to



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George Anastaplo’s Blog: Reflections on Chance in an Ordered World

John Metz

Is it not the intelligible that we, as rational beings, are naturally inclined to seek, whether in the vast reaches of time and space or in the tiniest building blocks of matter—as well as even in the ever-changing news of the day? By pursuing these and like questions (about both transitory and enduring matters), and sharing with others what we may somehow learn, we in turn can be the benefactors of those who happen to follow us, perhaps even making thereby our own lives seem more meaningful.[i]


George Anastaplo was an unlikely blogger. I think he was (and remains) the only person ever to have a blog and to openly admit that he doesn’t use email.[ii] He did not own a computer and never used a word processing program[iii] For the whole period of more than 35 years during which I knew him (including more than 40 Basic Program courses), Anastaplo rarely referred to “computers” but he often, disparagingly, referred to “those machines” or “your machines.” In short, most modern technology, including computers, did not appeal to his interest in “enduring matters.”[iv]


Like a number of other people,[v] I had heard of George Anastaplo before I met him. I enrolled in a first-year class in the Basic Program in the fall of 1978 and there he was, accompanied by Plato’s Meno (not the edition that he later translated and edited with Lawrence Berne). Prior to that, I had heard, in a very cursory form, of Anastaplo as the principal in a long-ago (or so it seemed then) court case involving some kind of free speech issue against the U.S. government.[vi]

Anastaplo was always curious—curious in his teaching style and curious in his approach to everything in life. His teaching style included many personal anecdotes and cross references from one text to another in the Program. Each class was sharply focused on the text, which was considered both by itself and with references, as needed, to the times and events when the text was written. Although he clearly knew a great deal about every topic we covered, Anastaplo always gave the impression that he was probing the text with the class, looking for things that had not been seen before. This earned him a reputation as the “master of the unexpected question.”[vii] Anastaplo was also remarkably down to earth (it must be noted that prior to this class my recent educational experiences had been with the graduate-level faculty at The University of Chicago, a group rarely described as down to earth).

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Anastaplo’s classroom teaching style was that, regardless of the type of text, he began by analyzing its “principle of order,” i.e., how the author organized the material or parts of the material.[viii] This analysis often began with counting the number of chapters in a book or the number of lines in a play or poem, with the most important point of the author being in the first, the last, or the middle position. As an example, Anastaplo frequently cited his own finding about the catalogue of ships in Book 2 of Homer’s Iliad. The naval force under the leadership of Odysseus is listed exactly midway between the contingent headed by Agamemnon and that headed by Achilles;[ix] the organizing principle in this case, Anastaplo argued, implicitly characterizes the fundamental relationships among the three characters. According to Anastaplo, although numeric relationships are not the only principle of order (a grocery list, for instance, may be organized by the geographic layout of the store), order does not happen accidentally and there is always a principle of order—no intelligent author can function without one. The principle of order may reveal much about an author’s way of thinking. I can recall only two texts that frustrated Anastaplo in his search for their principle of order: Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, and Pascal’s The Provincial Letters. (Was it coincidental, Anastaplo then wondered, that both authors were French?)[x]


Shortly after that first Basic Program course, I learned that Anastaplo and I were physical neighbors, living less than a block apart in Hyde Park. That provided the opportunity for many chance encounters, often at Powell’s Bookstore (used books) where we occasionally met to sort through the weekly discarded volumes. I don’t recall that we ever wanted the same book (we seemed to have nonoverlapping interests in the obscure and unwanted), but he often had comments on the available titles. And he certainly had casual observations about other things going on in the world. Because he didn’t drive at that time, when the venue for Basic Program classes switched from Hyde Park to downtown Chicago, I frequently gave him a ride home after class, and our conversations ranged widely but were rarely more serious than baseball. The only area of open disagreement between us was the merits of the designated hitter (an “abomination”—his word). This was clearly a clash between his classical world view and my more pragmatic one, in which baseball, like everything else, evolves and adapts regardless of consequences to an ideal of how the sport should be. A few years later we reached reconciliation, agreeing that the Cubs would never win a pennant with the popular and powerful Sammy Sosa in the lineup unless the National League changed its rules and allowed him to be a DH.

This status of “neighborliness” characterized our relationship even after I moved out of Hyde Park, and it seemed to describe Anastaplo’s relationship with many of the alumni students. In class he would often invite “expert” contributions from students with special knowledge or interests: as an artist, a doctor, a traveler, a judge, a psychiatrist, a scientist (me).[xi] In later years when Anastaplo was teaching sequences of three quarters on the same topic in the alumni courses,[xii] many of the students were regular attendees from year to year, and in January he would always ask the class for suggestions about what they would like to work on the next year.[xiii] But Anastaplo’s neighborliness extended deeper into Hyde Park and beyond the Basic Program. On one occasion at Powell’s he asked me if I would like to come to an ice-cream reception in his backyard the following week for his friend, Professor Chandrasekhar. I later learned how much Anastaplo respected Professor Chandrasekhar’s work, especially on Isaac Newton.[xiv] He would similarly speak of his discussions with the distinguished and the undistinguished from all walks of life.[xv] On another occasion I was attending a book signing event at another bookstore. The author was former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. I happened to be wearing a jacket that proclaimed “University of Chicago Handball Club.” When I reached Mr. Clark’s table he noticed my jacket and commented, “You’re from the University of Chicago. Do you happen to know George Anastaplo?” When I replied that I did, he said, “Well, tell him that I said hello.” Several years later Anastaplo gave me a book on handball, apparently one of the discards from another used bookstore that he visited. I reciprocated by giving him an article from Handball Magazine on Abraham Lincoln as a handball player.[xvi]

The most interesting of my happenstance encounters with Anastaplo occurred in 1989 when we found out that we were both going to be in Rome in a few weeks. He said I should come to a certain park around noon “if you’re free.” As it happened, I showed up there. He and his wife Sara were having a picnic, and they offered me a sandwich and then suggested we walk a few blocks to the “best ice-cream shop in Rome” (again, his words). I’m sure that any good guidebook would have highlighted the same sites along our walk, but none would have had the eagerness that Anastaplo had in discussing the Villa Borghese, the partial inspiration for Respighi’s Pines of Rome, the place where Edward Gibbon sat and concluded that he should write his history of Rome, and especially the church containing two pictures by Caravaggio. He let me buy the ice cream for both him and Sara.

Anastaplo was the center of what in retrospect I would call his “virtual” neighborhood. Everybody who had been involved in his life, as student, colleague, even adversary,[xvii] was still treated as a neighbor, not necessarily a close friend but respected for particular skills and interests, especially continuing interests in the perspective Anastaplo brought to topics covered in his classes.


Joel Rich was another of my instructors in the Basic Program and another Hyde Park neighbor. He was also a close friend of Anastaplo.[xviii] I understand that they had frequent conversations about serious topics (Anastaplo teasingly once said that Joel knew more about Proust than anybody should), but I got to know Joel by working with him on developing computer spreadsheets for his “fantasy baseball” team. Besides his Basic Program position, Joel taught in other institutions in Chicago and was experimenting with using a website for one of his classes. This was the context in which Anastaplo asked me another of his unexpected questions: would I talk with Joel about a project they were starting on? When I met with Joel he explained that he had convinced Anastaplo that a blog site could be useful to him as a way of maintaining contact with his colleagues and former students. Anastaplo had said that what he really wanted was a place on the Internet to make available electronic versions of his previous writings (which we referred to as the “archives”).[xix] Joel suggested that the two objectives could be combined.

My initial response was skeptical. It didn’t seem to me that we had the programming expertise and funding that would be needed. Besides, even if a blog were a good idea, shouldn’t it have some kind of institutional support (e.g., The University of Chicago in some capacity, Loyola University School of Law)? Most of all I was skeptical because I knew Anastaplo’s expressed attitude about computers.

Joel first countered each of my doubts. He knew everything he needed to know about starting a blog and with my help we could learn what was necessary beyond that. The various administrations that should be interested would be more likely to get involved if the blog already existed. In the meantime, we could use free or low-cost resources like WordPress. Besides, he told me, I misunderstood Anastaplo’s attitude toward computers. Much of his hostility was simply a particular example of his more general critique of contemporary students. Undoubtedly, some of the students in his law school classes rarely looked up from their screens while in his (or anybody’s) classroom. [xx] And, most egregiously, some apparently tried to answer his unexpected questions by “doing a Google” on them. These, however, were not the students who would use the blog.

Joel then pointed out how appropriate a blog would be for Anastaplo. He noted that “Anastaplo has been writing in hypertext long before hypertext existed.” Anyone who has seen any of Anastaplo’s books or attended one of his classes, would recognize the truth of this statement. His essays and classes are full of cross references and allusions, and his handouts of supplemental materials in class were famously burdensome (physically) to his students. Handling all of this electronically made a lot of sense. Echoing Joel’s comment about hypertext, I then conceded that Anastaplo had already established something very similar to “social media” in his virtual neighborhood. We agreed to try it as an exploration (a favorite word of Anastaplo).

And so with a clear expectation of how things would develop, Joel started George Anastaplo’s Blog ( in November 2009. He had actually reserved domain names that were less commercial but decided to get the blog started before transferring to something like “” Initially the only contents of the blog were the emails that Joel received from secretaries at Loyola. These were materials that had recently been typed from Anastaplo’s handwritten manuscripts and electronically stored on the law school’s servers. Meanwhile, my only involvement was with the second objective, getting the older, mostly published, articles onto the Internet. Joel and I proceeded slowly but we were learning and receiving positive feedback from Anastaplo.[xxi]


 It’s easy to see how chance events figured into the blog, with, for instance, such things as the common thread of baseball bringing together parts of the virtual neighborhood that itself included many chance and neighborly interactions. But the biggest unexpected event was the death of Joel in June 2011. Anastaplo gave me the news of this on a Monday morning before a regular class. A few weeks later he asked if I would continue the blog, and when I agreed to see what I could do, he gave me the password for getting “author access” to the blog (a password that he himself had never used).[xxii]

The blog as it now exists is not like any of us expected it to be, nor is it like it would be if it were to be started today.[xxiii] However, this blog is truly George Anastaplo’s. In spite of his early reservations, Anastaplo’s attitude toward computers clearly evolved, as he came to recognize the usefulness of computers for his purposes. By the end of his life, he regularly printed his copious classroom handouts from Wikipedia and other online sources. He checked this blog every time he had access to a public computer (or a relative’s). He encouraged the publication on the Internet of two of the subjects he held most worthy of wide distribution: the works by and about Leo Strauss[xxiv] and his own conversations with a holocaust survivor.[xxv] He was satisfied, even fascinated, with this exploration.

Anastaplo, however, has left me—as his student rather than his webmaster—with a question to ponder. From the beginning of the blog late in 2009 until his death in February 2013, he personally selected all the material that was posted. He never consulted with me (and I suspect this was true of Joel as well) about what to post on the blog. The result is a very personal presentation of what he considered important as he knew he was approaching the end of his life.[xxvi] The blog primarily recapitulates significant features of his life (family, military service), his legal case, and his community (colleagues, work, Hyde Park). The choice of what to present and when was probably more under his control than in any of his previous publications.

So, what was his principle of order?


[i] George Anastaplo’s Blog: Human Nature, the Ever-Curious (and yet Ephemeral) News of the Day and Glimpses of Eternity – 12/22/10

[ii] To have a blog at WordPress one must submit an email address; Joel Rich obtained an address that was never used or released to the public. A similar procedure was used for some sites linked to the blog (youtube, flickr, google drive, etc). Any comments or emails addressed by readers to the blog were printed by Joel or me and physically passed on to Anastaplo at some convenient time, meaning this was not an avenue for rapid communication. Anastaplo would often followup with a phone call if he knew the correspondent or wished to communicate with the correspondent.

[iii] With very few exceptions, neither Joel nor I typed material for the blog. Some posts were typed by secretaries at Loyola School of Law and then emailed, initially to Joel and later to me. We then pasted them to the blog page. Those materials that had been previously published were scanned to create a pdf or jpeg version which was then transferred to the blog. During the period of his court case, Anastaplo had typed all court submissions himself (copies are available in Special Collections, Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago). Most of his later writings were hand-written then typed on a computer by departmental secretaries. These were the computer files later posted as the archives and linked to the blog.

[iv] George Anastaplo’s Blog: On Disturbing Challenges to the Sense of Community in an Electronic Age – 10/8/13; George Anastaplo’s Blog: The Pentagon Papers and the Abolition of Television – 12/17/12.

[v] See David Bevington, June 6, 2014 in George Anastaplo’s Blog/eulogies.

[vi] I subsequently learned this understanding was not exactly accurate. See George Anastaplo’s Blog: WRONG QUESTION – 11/09/11 among other posts.

[vii] The term seems to have originated with Leo Paul de Alvarez, in a talk commemorating Anastaplo’s 55 years teaching in the Basic Program (George Anastaplo’s Blog: GEORGE ANASTAPLO AS A QUESTIONER – 11/28/11). It also has been endorsed by Anastaplo’s colleagues and other students. See Keith Cleveland, June 6, 2014 in George Anastaplo’s Blog/eulogies

[viii] For an example see George Anastaplo’s Blog: The Declaration of Independence and the Principle of Order -12/26/13.

[ix] Apparently this observation by Anastaplo has been made by very few, if any, of the scholars throughout history who have addressed the subject of the Catalogue of Ships.

[x] The failure to find a principle of order frustrated Anastaplo for several weeks in both cases but did not discourage him. It did not cause him to abandon the assumption that there must be a principle of order but rather to look harder for it. On both occasions he reported that outside of class he had called on a number of experts at the University but they also were unable to help (undoubtedly a question they had not been expecting).

[xi] For an example, see George Anastaplo’s Blog: Discussion Leaders, ROMEO AND JULIET, November 18, 2013 – 12/04/13.

[xii] George Anastaplo’s Blog: George Anastaplo’s Alumni Courses for the Basic Program, 2002-2014 – 10/9/13.

[xiii] The final choice was always Anastaplo’s, usually one of the class suggestions that somehow appealed to him, but not necessarily the most popular topic suggested.

[xiv] George Anastaplo’s Blog: S. Chandrasekhar: The Man Behind the Legend – 12/03/12

[xv] George Anastaplo’s Blog: Glimpses of Hugo L. Black, Robert M. Hutchins, Constantine Karamanlis, Leonard W. Levy, Helen Vlachou and others – 6/30/12; George Anastaplo’s Blog: George Anastaplo with a British Magician – 8/9/12; George Anastaplo’s Blog: Magician Jeremy Pitt-Payne Responds – 8/22/12.

[xvi] This may have been the only time when I gave Anastaplo some information that he didn’t already know. He and Sara also attended a small handball tournament at U. of C. that I was participating in one Saturday afternoon in Hyde Park—the only audience members from the general public.

[xvii] George Anastaplo’s Blog: Edward Hirsch Levi (1911-2000) – 9/24/12; George Anastaplo’s Blog: A CONVERSATION WITH HARRY V. JAFFA AT ROSARY COLLEGE – 8/30/11

[xviii] George Anastaplo’s Blog: Joel Allan Rich (1941-2011) – 8/01/11

[xix] One computer skill that I had was the ability to use software for converting computer files from one format to another. Joel knew this because of our baseball collaboration. He also knew that this was a vital skill in meeting Anastaplo’s objective since the archives, and eventually the blog, included files with many different formats.

[xx]George Anastaplo’s Blog: Suggestions for One’s Law School Colleagues in Challenging Times: Let Us Continue to be Educators – 8/20/13. This was not a problem for the Basic Program students who tended to be two generations removed from the generation of law students by the time personal laptop computers became the norm in classrooms.

[xxi] George Anastaplo’s Blog: Human Nature, the Ever-Curious (and yet Ephemeral) News of the Day and Glimpses of Eternity – 12/22/10.

[xxii] Anastaplo himself had noted that none of us is immortal, so he had requested notes from Joel and me that he could pass on to a successor if anything happened to Joel since he wouldn’t know what to do with them. He also agreed that an appropriate academic institution should eventually take over. Ironically, Joel had developed his own blog in a proprietary domain ( and when he died his supporters had some difficulty maintaining it. The domain is likely to continue for some time without further attention, at the whim of WordPress. Most of the contents of the blog will be copied and preserved by Special Collections, Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago

[xxiii] With the assistance of another Basic Program student, Aaron Helfman, and others, I learned enough of what Joel did to continue what he had started as well as much about how the blog could be made more attractive and easier to use. With Anastaplo’s death, however, we decided to keep the blog online as long as possible but to make only minimal additions or retrospective alterations.

[xxiv] Leo Strauss and His Legacy, A Bibliography ( The Anastaplo section of the original book (edited by John Murley) was posted at George Anastaplo’s Blog: An Autobiographical Bibliography (l947-2003) – 1/01/12. Other portions of the book were posted as a separate page George Anastaplo’s Blog/Preface and Index to LEO STRAUSS AND HIS LEGACY—2/26/12.

[xxv] This site—Simply Unbelievable: Conversations with a Holocaust Survivor (–was constructed by Adam Reinherz, Miriam Redleaf, and John Metz after Anastaplo’s death. Anastaplo had previously posted several of the separate conversations on his blog.

[xxvi] George Anastaplo’s Blog: George Anastaplo’s Potential Obituaries – 8/25/12.


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George Anastaplo—Teacher and Student

Aimee B. Anderson

I first became acquainted with George Anastaplo in 1981, during my first year of law school at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, where at that time he taught constitutional law. We students did not know anything much about him (it later turned out that this was also his first year at Loyola); we certainly did not have any idea that he had so vigorously defended the ideals of this country for such a lengthy period of time, at great personal sacrifice and much to the detriment of his legal career. Despite his far-ranging references and the broad reach of the topics discussed with his students, that was a subject that he did not raise in his classes.

Later I came to know him and the events of his life in much greater detail. But even now, I puzzle over what it was in his character, or upbringing, or environment that had provided him so early in life with his finest qualities, qualities that he exhibited to all for the rest of his life: an insatiable curiosity, an unwavering courage, and the rare ability to evaluate the present while in the present. These qualities seem to have been well ingrained within him at an early age, and they informed his actions at every stage of his life.

George Anastaplo was the first of three children, all boys, born to Theodore and Margareta (Syriopoulos) Anastaplo. His parents had been born in the same Greek village, but they first met and married in the United States, probably having arrived here in the early 1920s. George was born in St. Louis on November 7, 1925, into a community that was clearly not fully integrated into the life of this American city: he did not speak English until he attended grade school.[1]

George seems to have been sensitive to the difficulties of his parents’ adjustment to life in the United States, but he clearly saw himself as different from them.[2]

When he was about nine years old, he developed a serious case of diphtheria, so severe that his mother feared he would die. As part of the treatment or recuperation from the illness, George was sent to a type of sanatorium near St. Louis. At about this time, his father, who had apparently suffered some financial losses, decided to move the family to Carterville, a small town in southern Illinois. The rest of the family did move, leaving George behind in St. Louis for some period of time before he was released and joined his family in Carterville. Thus, at a very early period he seems to have been called upon to be self-reliant.

George grew up in Carterville, and his parents spent the rest of their lives there. His father opened a diner (not a Greek restaurant, George would say, since the residents of Carterville in those days would not have eaten Greek food), and George worked there as a boy. He seems to have disliked the experience and remained essentially indifferent to meals and food preparation for the rest of his life.

He was a good student and was encouraged by teachers who were undoubtedly invigorated by his curiosity and intellect. As soon as he finished high school, in 1943, he set about trying to join the Army Air Corps. He was strongly discouraged in this endeavor by the military since he was underweight and apparently had a heart murmur. However, George was persistent, hanging about the air field near town and repeating his attempts to join up, until the officials agreed to take him on as a trial, figuring that he would not be able to complete the training. As in many other circumstances, George was not to be deterred (stubborn, some would call him during his lifetime), and he became a navigator in the Air Corps, an accomplishment that provided him with great pride and a wealth of anecdotes regarding his experiences (some involving great courage and quite a bit of self-reliance) for the rest of his life.

On leaving the Air Corps in 1947, George was eligible for educational benefits under the G.I. bill, and he applied for admission to the University of Chicago.[3] Having been in the service, he was somewhat older than many of the other students, but by 1948 he had finished his undergraduate course work and entered the law school at the University of Chicago.[4] There he was at the top of his class.

In the fall of 1950, his final year of law school, he had taken and passed the Illinois bar exam and was interviewing for a position with one of the downtown Chicago law firms. All that remained before the start of his career was a seemingly routine, perfunctory interview with a panel of the fitness committee of the Illinois Bar, as required of all applicants to practice law. So uneventful did this interview appear to be that George had agreed to have lunch with a friend immediately afterward.

But chance,[5] the climate of the times, and George Anastaplo’s refusal to concede on an issue that he thought vital to a proper view of the rights historically granted to the American people collided, resulting in an eleven-year legal battle that irrevocably changed Anastaplo’s career and touched the lives of innumerable jurists, lawyers, students, and others.

I will merely sketch the outlines of the controversy. The transcripts and court opinions of that lengthy litigation are available and have been summarized elsewhere. While these events give us some insight into the character of George Anastaplo, they do not represent the real value of the man as a scholar and a teacher who deeply influenced the thought and the lives of so many. He did not, I believe, define himself by these events, although some have been tempted to do so.

Anastaplo’s first appearance before the Committee on Character and Fitness of the Illinois Bar took place on November 10, 1950, when he was interviewed by a two-person subcommittee. In that environment of rampant McCarthyism,[6] the members of the subcommittee took umbrage at Anastaplo’s position on the right of revolution (expressed as an almost verbatim quotation from the Declaration of Independence). The interviewers then proceeded to question him as to his membership, or not, in certain political associations, including the Communist party, an inquiry that Anastaplo deemed improper, refusing to answer such questions.

This occasioned a further appearance before the entire Character and Fitness Committee, which took place on January 5, 1951, and the committee ultimately refused to issue the required certificate of satisfactory character and fitness. In 1954 the Illinois Supreme Court required the Committee on Character and Fitness to explain its decision, and on September 23 of that year, it upheld the committee’s decision.[7] In 1955 the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the decision of the Illinois court, denied the petition for rehearing, and denied Anastaplo’s motion seeking admission to the Supreme Court. The issue would appear to have been finally decided.

In 1957, however, certain U.S. Supreme Court decisions prompted Anastaplo to petition for a rehearing from the Committee on Character and Fitness, and having been ordered by the Illinois Supreme Court to allow this petition, the case began again. Once more the committee refused to certify Anastaplo as having the requisite character,[8] and once more, in 1959, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to reverse that decision. On May 2, 1960, however, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review the Illinois court’s ruling.

On December 14, 1960, the Supreme Court heard Anastaplo, representing himself, in oral argument. The opinion, issued on April 24, 1961, upheld the Illinois decision and also denied Anastaplo’s motion for admission to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Hugo Black, however, wrote a dissent from that 5–4 decision against Anastaplo that has come to be regarded as one of his finest opinions.[9] Pointing out that “from a legal standpoint, [Anastaplo’s] position throughout has been that the First Amendment gave him a right not to disclose his political associations or his religious beliefs to the Committee,” Black recognized the essential character of the man who was asserting this position. He elaborated:

[Anastaplo’s] decision to refuse to disclose these associations and beliefs went much deeper than a bare reliance upon what he considered to be his legal rights. The record shows that his refusal to answer the Committee’s question stemmed primarily from his belief that he had a duty, both to society and to the legal profession, not to submit to the demands of the Committee because he believed that the questions had been asked solely for the purpose of harassing him because he had expressed agreement with the assertion of the right of revolution against an evil government set out in the Declaration of Independence.

Black also pointed out that the committee had had the opportunity to judge Anastaplo’s character for itself during the lengthy hearing process: “Faced with a barrage of sometimes highly provocative and totally irrelevant questions from men openly hostile to his position, Anastaplo invariably responded with all the dignity and restraint attributed to him in the affidavits of his friends.” As to his support of the right of revolution, Black found that

the one and only time in which [Anastaplo] has come into conflict with the Government is when he refused to answer the questions put to him by the Committee about his beliefs and associations. And I think the record clearly shows that conflict resulted, not from any fear on Anastaplo’s part to divulge his own political activities, but from a sincere, and in my judgment correct, conviction that the preservation of this country’s freedom depends upon adherence to our Bill of Rights. The very most that can fairly be said against Anastaplo’s position in this entire matter is that he took too much of the responsibility of preserving that freedom upon himself.

Anastaplo filed a petition for rehearing in the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied—as he had expected it would be—on October 9, 1961. Thus concluded the litigation; Anastaplo had, as he put it in his petition for rehearing, “practiced all the law he [was] ever going to.” Some correspondence passed between the jurist and the scholar in subsequent years, and Hugo Black’s own funeral service included a reading of an excerpt from his dissenting opinion, which famously concludes with the admonition that “we must not be afraid to be free.”

Despite his having been an excellent student and apparently well-regarded by all, Anastaplo was not supported in his bar committee difficulties by many of those whom he felt should have stood up for him and his position, including the dean and much of the faculty of the law school at the University of Chicago.[10] This was a source of significant disappointment to him, one that he never forgot, although he has, typically, acknowledged the “unanticipated benefits of adversity.”[11]

During the pendency of the litigation, Anastaplo, deprived of the opportunity to practice law, went to work in other capacities. He drove a taxi cab for a period of time, a job that fortuitously brought him into personal contact with Justice Daily, a member of the Illinois Supreme Court who had recently heard Anastaplo’s argument on his first appeal from the bar committee’s refusal to certify him.[12] Justice Daily later led the four-man majority of the Illinois Supreme Court that again upheld the committee in 1959.

In the mid-1950s Anastaplo returned to school and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1964. His dissertation for the Committee on Social Thought ultimately became his book The Constitutionalist.

In 1957 he began his formal teaching career, first in the Basic Program of the University of Chicago, a position he continued to fill until the end of the fall quarter of 2013, just months before his death.[13] He also taught in the political science and philosophy departments at Rosary College, now Dominican University, in River Forest, Illinois, near Chicago. He taught seminars on politics and literature at the University of Dallas for two years, commuting there regularly from Chicago for the classes. Throughout his career he was an invited speaker at a number of academic institutions, and he regularly lectured all over the country.

Anastaplo began teaching constitutional law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law in the fall of 1981, and he continued teaching seminars there on various topics of jurisprudence and constitutional law until the end of the fall semester of 2013. At Loyola, too, Anastaplo’s classes were routinely fully subscribed.

George Anastaplo prided himself on never having missed a class since his grade school days, and although weak and ill at the end of 2013, he was insistent that he would complete his teaching responsibilities through the end of the academic period, both in the Basic Program and at Loyola. In December he took a leave of absence from his teaching responsibilities.[14]

George Anastaplo died on February 14, 2014, and a memorial service was held on the campus of the University of Chicago, at Bond Chapel on June 6 of that year. It was impressive to see the number of people who attended the service, from so many different disciplines and backgrounds, all brought together by their connection to him. During his lifetime he was always making introductions among people he thought should know each other, and many of us at the memorial service did in fact know each other precisely because he had fostered those relationships. He was eulogized by colleagues, many of whom were former students or instructors from the Basic Program, Dominican University, and Loyola.

Of course, we were all lifelong students of George Anastaplo. He was always quick to invite one to sit in on a class or a lecture he was giving. No written communication or holiday card went unanswered, and he always included something he had recently written.

Throughout his life George Anastaplo shared his thoughts with others in a vast amount of writing on an immense number of topics. In addition to his blog at (a later form of publication for his essays), he authored twenty-one books, well over twenty book-length articles, numerous eulogies, and frequent letters to the editor. His final book, Reflections on War and Peace and the Constitution, was the sixth in a projected series of ten volumes of Reflections. The remaining volumes, the contents of which were already in progress, reflect his continuing curiosity about so many issues and had been preliminarily titled Reflections on Race Relations and the Constitution; Reflections on Crime, Character, and the Constitution; Reflections on Property, Taxes, and the Constitution; and Reflections on Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. Although we have now lost the give-and-take of conversation with George Anastaplo, thanks to his profound and prolific writings, we can all continue to be his students.

[1] Many of the important events of Anastaplo’s life are touched upon by him in his 2004 preface to The Constitutionalist: Notes on the First Amendment (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005).

[2] See the dedication to Anastaplo’s book Human Being and Citizen: Essays on Virtue, Freedom and the Common Good (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), which reads, “To My Parents, who discovered as Immigrants from Greece how difficult it is for one to become a Human Being where one is not born a Citizen.”

[3] When asked why he had decided to go to the University of Chicago, his only explanation (at least to some of us) was that someone had told him that it was a good school.

[4] Asked why he had decided to study law, Anastaplo’s answer was similar: someone had told him that he should study law.

[5] Chance is readily acknowledged by Anastaplo as an important and pervasive element in the unfolding of circumstances of great significance.

[6] A time, as Anastaplo puts it, “when so many of my fellow citizens were not altogether unwilling prisoners of the Cold War,” Constitutionalist, 333.

[7] 3 Ill. 2d 471, 121. N.E. 2d 826 (1954).

[8] Despite this decision, the committee’s 1959 report noted, “From the character affidavits and reference letters which have been submitted to us, it would appear that the applicant is well regarded by his academic associates, by professors who had taught him in school and by members of the Bar who know him personally. We have not been supplied with any information by any third party which is derogatory to Anastaplo’s character or general reputation. We have received no information from any outside source which would cast any doubt on applicant’s loyalty or which would tend to connect him in any manner with any subversive group.” Majority Report of Committee on Character and Fitness for the First Appellate Court District of Illinois, 1959, in Constitutionalist, 350.

[9] In re Anastaplo, 366 U.S. 82, 97 (1961).

[10] Thus, the dedication in his book On Trial: From Adam and Eve to O.J. Simpson (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004) reads, “To the Memory of my Law School teachers (1948–1951) who, with a few noble exceptions, preached (and hence taught) far better than they could practice.”

[11] Constitutionalist, xxix.

[12] For a description of this incident, see Constitutionalist, 338–40.

[13] He had decided to teach all of Shakespeare’s plays, in chronological order, during that quarter and the anticipated two subsequent quarters. The class was completely subscribed, and Anastaplo waived the limits on the class size.

[14] On May 16, 2014, the students of the graduating class at Loyola elected him “professor of the year,” although he had taught during only one semester of that academic year.

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Curator’s Note, December 11, 2014

The following post by Andrew Majeske has been added to this site because it was referred to in these previous posts:

Literature, Law and the Idea of Justice: The Case of Professors Amartya Sen & George Anastaplo


“We must not be afraid to be free”: Justice Hugo Black and George Anastaplo–Majeske pre-Publication


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Literature, Law and the Idea of Justice: The Case of Professors Amartya Sen & George Anastaplo–Majeske pre-Publication

Andrew Majeske

“This essay has been removed from the blog and will be forthcoming in a volume to be published by Rowman and Littlefield containing essays arising out of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Third Biennial Literature and Law Conference.”

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Curator’s Note, October 1, 2014

One of the projects that George Anastaplo considered among his most important was a series of conversations that he recorded with Simcha Brudno in 2000, over 50 years after the end of World War II.  Mr. Brudno at that time was a distinguished mathematician at the University of Chicago but he had lived as a young man in Lithuania at the time of the Nazi occupation and enslavement of his country. The conversations were transcribed and published in a series of 13 articles beginning in 2009 (some have been posted at this site). The entire series has now been posted and may be viewed at:

One of those conversations was recently published in:

How Do You Explain Craziness? On the Germans and the Holocaust, pp. 928–980

In that same issue, some of Anastaplo’s colleagues published reflections on his work and legacy. These comments may be viewed by clicking here.

Since July 29, we have posted some additional eulogies from the June 6 Memorial Service. All of the eulogies may be viewed by clicking here.

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Curator’s Note, July 29, 2014

Additional material has been added to the post on this blog of George Anastaplo’s last Works of the Mind lecture: William Shakespeare, Dramatist–Not Statesman, Not Philosopher

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Memorial Service for George Anastaplo, June 6, 2014

Anastaplo MS 1


Anastaplo MS 2


Anastaplo MS 3

Remarks by each speaker may be viewed by clicking here (nb 6/13/14: not all materials are currently posted; others will be posted as they become available).



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