from the Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law

By Roger K. Newman
Anastaplo, George (1925- ). Litigant and law professor. Anastaplo was born in St. Louis and grew up there and in Carterville, Illinois, the son of Greek immigrants who operated a restaurant. He volunteered for the Army Air Corps in 1943 and served as an aerial navigator during and after World War II. In 1947 he entered the University of Chicago after having placed out on entrance examinations in nearly half his courses, took all seven of the remaining year-long courses in one year, and graduated in 1948. Three years later, Anastaplo graduated first in his class at the university’s law school.
He passed the bar examination and planned to join a law firm, but when he appeared before a bar fitness committee, Anastaplo indicated in response to its questions that he advocated the right of revolution as set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Asked if he were a member of the Communist Party, he refused to answer, claiming it was irrelevant to the committee’s function. Denied admission to the bar, he conducted Great Books seminars at the University of Chicago and took courses in its Committee on Social Thought. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the bar in 1954 and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case the next year. Anastaplo revived his application and for twenty hours in six hearings over four months in 1958 the committee questioned him about his personal and political philosophy before rejecting him again. The Illinois courts again sustained the bar. Driving a cab to support his family, Anastaplo picked up in Chicago the Illinois justice who had written the original opinion and now urged him to tell the character committee he was not a Communist.
Anastaplo took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing it himself. In 1961 the Court upheld the Illinois bar’s refusal to admit him. (366 U.S.82) Dissenting eloquently, after first saying that Anastaplo was “too stubborn for his own good,” Justice Hugo L. Black placed him in the category of courageous lawyers such as Charles Evans Hughes, John W. Davis, and Clarence Darrow. He “took too much of the responsibility of preserving [American] freedom upon himself.” A colleague told Black that he had “immortalized” Anastaplo, and the opinion led to ten years of correspondence between Black and Anastaplo. After the Court denied his petition for rehearing, Anastaplo “retired” from “the practice of law.” He later rejected several offers, each hinged on his reapplying, to be admitted to the bar. “It is better to leave things as they are,” he said.
In 1964, Anastaplo received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago but, blacklisted by its provost and, later, president Edward Levi, he started teaching political science at Rosary College. He moved to Loyola Law School of Chicago in 1981. His first book, The Constitutionalist (1971), was an exploration of the First Amendment’s guarantees of political freedom more than a dogmatic laying down of arguments. Overall, Anastaplo wrote well over 1,000 pieces—more than a dozen books and a dozen book-length law review collections, and hundreds of articles. His subjects covered law, religion, philosophy, literature, and most of the humanities and social sciences, with mathematics and the physical sciences included. But a classicist in modern garb, he always returned to interpreting, and understanding, the Constitution and especially the First Amendment.
A born moral gadfly with subtle humor and his steady principles readily apparent, Anastaplo was expelled from Russia in 1960 for protesting harassment of another tourist, and from the Greece of the Colonels in 1968 for scolding the government about censorship. As one reviewer of The Constitutionalist (C. Herman Pritchett) concluded, “Any man who is kicked out of Russia, Greece, and the Illinois bar can’t be all bad.”
This account of George Anastaplo’s career has been published in The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law (Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 12-13. John A. Murley, Leo Strauss and His Legacy (2005); Murley, Robert L. Stone, and William T. Braithwaite, eds., Law and Philosophy—The Practice of Theory: Essays in Honor of George Anastaplo, (1992); Roger K. Newman, Hugo Black: A Biography (1994). Roger Newman is the editor of The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law (a volume with about seven hundred entries).

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