Larry Arnhart, June 6, 2014:
George Anastaplo argued his bar admission case before the Supreme Court in December of 1960. In April of 1961, the Court ruled against him in a 5-4 opinion. Justice Hugo Black wrote the dissenting opinion, with the concurrence of Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justices William Brennan and William O. Douglas.
In September of 1971, Justice Black died. His funeral at Washington National Cathedral drew a crowd of over 1,000 people, including many of the most prominent political and legal leaders in Washington. For one part of the service, Black’s son selected excerpts from five of Black’s most eloquent opinions to be read. One of those was his opinion in the Anastaplo case.
The last sentence of Black’s opinion is on Anastaplo’s tombstone: “We must not be afraid to be free.”
Excerpt from Justice Hugo Black’s Dissent, In Re Anastaplo, 366 U.S. 82 (1961):
The effect of the Court’s ‘balancing’ here is that any State may now reject an applicant for admission to the Bar if he believes in the Declaration of Independence as strongly as Anastaplo and if he is willing to sacrifice his career and his means of livelihood in defense of the freedoms of the First Amendment. But the men who founded this country and wrote our Bill of Rights were strangers neither to a belief in the ‘right of revolution’ nor to the urgency of the need to be free from the control of government with regard to political beliefs and associations. Thomas Jefferson was not disclaiming a belief in the ‘right of revolution’ when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. And Patrick Henry was certainly not disclaiming such a belief when he declared in impassioned words that have come on down through the years: ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ This country’s freedom was won by men who, whether they believed in it or not, certainly practiced revolution in the Revolutionary War.
Since the beginning of history there have been governments that have engaged in practices against the people so bad, so cruel, so unjust and so destructive of the individual dignity of men and women that the ‘right of revolution’ was all the people had left to free themselves. As simple illustrations, one government almost 2,000 years ago burned Christians upon fiery crosses and another government, during this very century, burned Jews in crematories. I venture the suggestion that there are countless multitudes in this country, and all over the world, who would join Anastaplo’s belief in the right of the people to resist by force tyrannical governments like those.
In saying what I have, it is to be borne in mind that Anastaplo has not indicated, even remotely, a belief that this country is an oppressive one in which the ‘right of revolution’ should be exercised. Quite the contrary, the entire course of his life, as disclosed by the record, has been one of devotion and service to his country-first, in his willingness to defend its security at the risk of his own life in time of war and, later, in his willingness to defend its freedoms at the risk of his professional career in time of peace. The one and only time in which he 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.
This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that Anastaplo has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows, not only that Anastaplo has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost. It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law-men like Malsherbes, who, at the cost of his own life and the lives of his family, sprang unafraid to the defense of Louis XVI against the fanatical leaders of the Revolutionary government of France – men like Charles Evans Hughes, Sr., later Mr. Chief Justice Hughes, who stood up for the constitutional rights of socialists to be socialists and public officials despite the threats and clamorous protests of self-proclaimed superpatriots – men like Charles Evans Hughes, Jr., and John W. Davis, who, while against everything for which the Communists stood, strongly advised the Congress in 1948 that it would be unconstitutional to pass the law then proposed to outlaw the Communist Party — men like Lord Erskine, James Otis, Clarence Darrow, and the multitude of others who have dared to speak in defense of causes and clients without regard to personal danger to themselves. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.
But that is the present trend, not only in the legal profession but in almost every walk of life. Too many men are being driven to become government-fearing and time-serving because the Government is being permitted to strike out at those who are fearless enough to think as they please and say what they think. This trend must be halted if we are to keep faith with the Founders of our Nation and pass on to future generations of Americans the great heritage of freedom which they sacrificed so much to leave to us. The choice is clear to me. If we are to pass on that great heritage of freedom, we must return to the original language of the Bill of Rights. We must not be afraid to be free.
Keith Cleveland, June 6, 2014:
One of my earliest memories of George Anastaplo comes from the early 1970s. At the time Basic Program daytime classes were held at 190 East Delaware Street where the University’s Business school ran its popular “190 Program” in the evenings.
George was teaching an alumni class on the Bible, and during the first half of the day’s classes—before the long lunch break—I was walking through the hallway passing the classrooms. George’s classroom door was open and he was working at the blackboard, easily visible and audible as I passed the room. And as I did, I overheard George declare, with evident pleasure and excitement:
“And that’s how God thinks!”
That moment has gone a long way toward forming my understanding of George Anastaplo. After classes had finished, I mentioned to him what I had heard. He smiled and said “It was an electrifying moment.” Regrettably I neither received nor pressed for additional details. So the significance of that occasion gave me a glimpse of a spontaneous encounter—for George, and his alumni students—with an unexpected insight into the Bible, framed by George as an insight into its author. Though I cannot be certain, I do seem to recall learning they were working on the Book of Numbers that day.
And for me, that moment launched a growing awareness of George’s bold spontaneity and willingness to follow a line of inquiry not knowing where it would lead or whether the inquiry would be worthwhile at all. I have since come to associate this quality in him with Socrates. In doing so I have simply noticed from my own experience what many others have seen and remarked upon. George seemed to me to have more completely adapted Socratic ideals and methods to 20th century circumstances than anyone else I have known, choosing a way of life marked by passionate devotion to inquiry into fundamental ideas.
George was described to me not many years ago1 as “a master of the unexpected question.” That description struck me as particularly apt. I’m confident that all of us can use it to marshal recollections of such questions over the years. The basic notion readily expands to embrace illuminating observations, arresting conclusions, and intriguing suggestions that, with his questions framed George’s teaching. Thinking about the matter of unexpected questions, I recalled George’s collaboration with Dr. Lawrence Z. Freedman, Professor of Psychiatry at the University. Mr. Anastaplo and Dr. Freedman did some co-teaching at the Clearing in Door County, Wisconsin, I believe, and Dr. Freedman attended and spoke at one of the Basic Program Weekend Outings at Starved Rock (on Darwin’s Origin of Species, 1978). I believe Mr. Anastaplo’s interest sprang from his interest in Aristotle and particularly in what he could learn from Dr. Freedman about psychiatry’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison with Aristotle’s positions on the soul, ethics, and politics. Doubtless Dr. Freedman’s special interest in forensic psychiatry added to the fruitfulness of this collaboration. (See George’s essays “An Aristotelian Assessment of What Modern Psychiatry Offers,” 1973, and “Psychiatry and the Law: An Old Fashioned Approach,” 1979).
At some point in their collaboration, they talked about suicide. Dr. Freedman made the point that everyone who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge jumped from the side facing the city. Their discussion cannot have continued much farther before George asked, “Which side of the Bridge has the sidewalk?” As the question suggests, very likely there is only one sidewalk2, and if it were on the side looking out to sea, someone intending suicide would have to cross ten lanes of traffic to get to the city side. As George later remarked, “A man could get killed doing a thing like that!” Though I wasn’t present for this discussion, it seems likely George’s question changed its direction.
The few qualities I have mentioned today contributed to Mr. Anastaplo’s excellence as a teacher and as a colleague—making him for decades “first among equals” in the Basic Program staff. I do not expect to see his like again.
1. This suggestion came from Professor Leo Paul S. de Alvarez at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the naming of the annual “Anastaplo Lecture,” held November 13, 2011.
2. I have since learned that the Bridge has a bicycles-only path on the side facing the ocean. The side facing the city has the pedestrian walk way along the Bridge railing and a smaller path for bicycles-only along the road way.
Chris Colmo, June 6, 2014:
Sister Candida Lund taught political science at Rosary College in the 60s. When she invited Mr. Anastaplo to come to campus to discuss joining the faculty, she did not explain ahead of time that he should look for her in the President’s Office. His former classmate at U of C had become President of Rosary, making it possible for her to hire him as her replacement.
Two of my colleagues at what is now Dominican University knew Mr. Anastaplo in relation to Rosary College much more fully than I did. Professor Rosalind Hays was his colleague from the History Department, and Professor Kathy Heskin from Theology had been his student at Rosary.
Mrs. Hays tells the following story.
“My most vivid memories of George came during the brouhaha that ensued when a student group invited William Kunstler to speak on campus. The event had been set up, when people in the neighborhood heard about it and there were threatening phone calls. Sister Candida cancelled Kunstler’s appearance, particularly when, as I understand it, she tried to find insurance for the event; the premium asked was enormous.
“There was a lot of negative reaction to the cancellation. George proposed a HUGE, multi-part resolution. I don’t remember all the pieces of it. But when it came before the Academic Council we ended up debating that resolution for, as I remember it, at least ten hours in several meetings. I, of course, supported most or all of the resolution. George had a funny position on campus. He tended not to come to Academic Council meetings unless he was interested in something specific. His usual absence was touted by opponents of the resolution. But, of course, he was also enormously eloquent about the freedom of speech issues involved in cancelling a proposed appearance by a controversial figure. And there were a bunch of Rosary faculty who agreed with him.
“At the end of all the meetings the Academic Council voted to urge the president to re-invite Kunstler. He did appear. Although lots of supporters of the appearance trained in crowd control and so on, the appearance came off without incident. There was much more fuss at a later appearance of some of the peace agitators from Northern Ireland who drew protestors from all across the city.”
Now let me turn to a story Mrs. Heskin tells about one of Mr. Anastaplo’s classes at Rosary.
“Classes with Mr. Anastaplo were always lively, challenging and thoughtful. He had the ability to draw out of students things they didn’t even know they knew—but it was dangerous to pretend you had done the work if you hadn’t!
“One class in particular is etched in my memory. It was during the presidential campaign of 1976. Jimmy Carter made a statement that Mr. Anastapolo questioned in connection to our reading. Carter promised that if he were president, he would never lie to the American people. We were studying “The Republic,” and in particular the Noble Lie. Most of the class period was dedicated to the discussion of whether that was a good promise for someone running for public office to make—and after much debate we agreed it was not the most prudent or thoughtful thing to say.
“As we prepared to leave the room after class, Mr. Anastaplo’s parting comment was, ‘Unless of course he was lying when he said it.’”
I return to Mrs. Hays and her generosity as an academic advisor.
“How about Mike, one of the best history students I’ve ever taught, who signed up for George’s course in Thucydides under protest. (I told Mike he should not pass up the chance to do George’s kind of questioning and thinking—although Mike did not like philosophy any more than I do . . .). Mike told me that one day in class George began to ask him questions and kept asking and asking very much in the Socratic mode for a full two hours (if somebody was really thinking, George would push him/her as far as s/he could go). Mike was both exhausted and exhilarated. At the end of the semester he decided to drop my spring class for one of George’s. He hoped I wouldn’t be offended.”
Francis Wolfe, June 6, 2014:
Some years ago a man told me that life is just a series of separation anxieties. My wife and I just flew across the Atlantic to be with you to share our separation anxiety about a great human being.
I was, years ago, working on LaSalle Street and holding court for some half-baked political-economic type job as was my wont when somebody came across the table and said to me, “Francis, you need to go down to the University of Chicago and get in the Basic Program. You’ll see the guy down here that can handle you.” So I came down and enrolled in a course and the first class I was in was with Professor George Anastaplo and the text happened to be the Gospel According to Matthew, and at some point I came in with one of my profound observations on the text as a result of deep thinking and Professor Anastaplo paused, and there was no instructor by the way in my experience who could use silence like Professor Anastaplo. He held silent for a few seconds and then he said, courteously, mind you, not sarcastically, “Well, Mr. Wolfe, if what you just said is true, wouldn’t it then follow that such and such.” And I realized that I had just made a big fool of myself and instead I learned to listen from that first lesson in the Basic Program.
Now I would say that education is not about filling buckets it’s about lighting fires. George Anastaplo lit fires in more students’ hearts than any other instructor I know of. He drove more people to the library from their books to look up something that had been said in class—that’s a terrific talent. And the other characteristic I would like to comment on about Professor Anastaplo was his kindness and gentleness. You know around universities there are lots of conferences and seminars and meetings of all kinds and usually at the conclusion of these meetings there’s a reception and a caterer provides more food than is necessary. And we always used to see George Anastaplo loading his pockets with food and I always thought he was taking it home for supper, but I found out later that quietly and unobtrusively and for years he was taking that food out on the street and giving it to the homeless men under the bridge and that was not noticed by anyone.
My wife and I, being of the age we are, and being citizens of the medical-industrial complex, we both had cancer operations. We didn’t tell anybody that we were having cancer operations, but each morning for each one of us the phone would ring and it was George Anastaplo and mind you, we had these operations in a hospital in Paris, France. We were called long distance to see how we were doing and how we were getting along. Nobody knows that he did this, he didn’t have to do it—that’s the kindness that just caused him to think he’d check all the time.
You know as a great instructor and as a compassionate man, he used to tell us that there were two fundamental things: “Don’t ever worry about your money. Some of you are going to make a great deal of money. Do not concentrate on it; do not pay attention to it. If you make a great deal of money, give it to some money-manager who can look after it and you concentrate on your clients and on the law.” And the other thing he said, “Try to live your life morally, but not moralistically.”
And that’s enough with him, with George Anastaplo. And I’m privileged this afternoon to be able to share with you my separation anxiety.
David Bevington, June 6, 2014:
Like many of us, I expect, I knew of George Anastaplo before I actually met him: the intrepid warrior who had stood out against lawyers’ guilds and supreme courts in the name of refusing questions that none of us should be legally required to answer, a man of severe integrity who stood by his principles at the expense of being denied admission to the Illinois Bar, a man whom Justice Hugo Black had called “too stubborn for his own good.” When I met George, early after Peggy and I came to Chicago in 1967, I recognized the famous portraiture, and saw this as a tribute both to him and to the University of Chicago, which readily found a place for him to teach in the School of General Studies. (He also, of course, taught law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.) Here, for me, was a reason to want to teach in the University and thus be able to claim George Anastaplo as a colleague and inspirational example.
George and I shared many passions and commitments from the start: to general education, to great books, to broad intellectual interests, to collegiality. We often meet at weekly luncheons at the Franke Institute in the Regenstein Library, once that wonderful institution had opened its doors in 1990 owing to the generosity of Rich and Barbara Franke. These luncheons epitomized many things that were so honest and admirable about George, most of all a commitment to hearing reports from our colleagues about their work in all fields of the humanities and beyond, of art history, linguistics, Romance and Germanic languages, English and American literary studies, the history of science, music, political science, Middle Eastern history and culture, and still more. George loved to ask questions during the discussion period from the perspective of the devoted amateur who knows enough to ask pertinent questions and is at the same time ready to learn about new subjects.
George’s writing was of course like that too: not confined in the least to the law, though he wrote prolifically in that large field on constitutional questions, the First Amendment, law and morality, campus hate speech, individual and personal privacy, civil disobedience, virtue, freedom, the common good, slavery, and the right to die. He wrote also on Greece and the limits of American power, on Gandhi, Buddhism, and other aspects of non-Western thought, on the American Civil War , including, prominently, Abraham Lincoln, on Aristotle of course (a virtual requirement at the U of C), Plato also a requirement of course, on Jacques Maritain, on law and philosophy, law and literature, literature and the Bible, psychiatry and the law, religion and the law, the Christian heritage, Leo Strauss and the Straussians, Henry David Thoreau, O. J. Simpson, the mass media, James Joyce, and – what have I left out? It might be simpler to list the things he didn’t teach and write about. His intellectual curiosity was all-embracing and ceaseless.
He was aptly known as the Socrates of Chicago and even looked rather like what we all imagine Socrates to look like: the large eyes, the academic disarray of dress, the impression of mild innocence and humility that provided a surprising cover for a sharply inquiring mind. He could be very funny, and his humor tended to be of the self-deprecating sort. I especially savored his description of the process by which he finally got his PhD degree in Social Thought – a discipline that, back in those days, had the reputation of being a place of slow death for graduate students working their way through the whole range of human learning and finding it hard to know when one was qualified to graduate . (This was all celebrated in Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974, which, one gathers, was a roman a clef centered around the mentorship of Richard McKeon.) George’s own story, in the midst of all this, was one of loving to work under the intellectual leadership of David Grene, but of not always knowing how to proceed toward the PhD. When that moment finally arrived, it appears that no member of the faculty had actually read George’s dissertation. I believe it was David Grene who finally certified that George had completed the requirements for the degree.
One time, quite a few years after that, George confided to me that he was at a loss to know what to do with his personal papers. I took that as a cue and immediately contacted Alice Schreyer at Special Collections. Here was a man who, when it was indirectly suggested after many years that if he were to petition for a reconsideration of his famous case he might well receive a favorable ruling, answered that in that case the Court, not he, should make the first move. How could the University of Chicago refuse to act as curator for the papers of such a Robin Hood-like folk hero? Alice Schreyer immediately agreed that the University should, and would, do exactly that. What Special Collections and I had not anticipated, to be sure, was that this meant acceptance of the papers representing not just the famous case at law but the papers lying behind everything else that this prolific and multi-faceted author had produced. The shelf in the Special Collections stack is, I am assured, a large shelf. It deserves to be. May it be richly consulted! And if there should turn to be any lacunae in the collection, perhaps I can help, for George made a point over the last 25 years at least of dropping off copies of his oeuvre through my mailbox on Blackstone Avenue. (He lived on Harper Avenue, just around the block, so that we were neighbors.) I hope that many of you were similarly blessed. The collective wisdom of that trove is truly a monument to the kind of heterogeneous learning and insight that the University, and perhaps especially the Graham School, has always fostered. Long may it do so!
Perhaps I might mention that I am scheduled to give a George Anastaplo lecture this fall, at the Cultural Center I believe. That lecture series will be yet another meaningful tribute to what George Anastaplo has meant to us all.
Harry Mark Petrakis, June 6, 2014:
EULOGY FOR A FRIEND
Yesterday was my 91st birthday. George was a few years younger. If death observed human chronology, George might have been standing here delivering a eulogy for me. Yet, in a world where the moment we are born we are old enough to die, to live eight and a half and nine decades is a bounty for which we must be grateful. George taught and wrote until the time he died, twenty years later than many others retire.
No man or woman is a single identifiable entity. All of us are parts of how others see us. Each of the speakers before me, colleagues and friends, retain their memories and impressions of George. That is true of his siblings, his children, his grandchildren, and his dear wife Sara.
If ever the words unpretentious and unassuming can be applied to a human being, they belong to George. I have never known a man so skilled at turning a question about himself back on you.
George was quiet, in my experience not prone to angry outbursts. His children may remember differently. Yet he was capable of a rebuke. Driving him home one night after an event we had shared. I was going East on Jackson and at Lake Shore Drive raced to make a yellow light. I turned sharply with the car lurching and a shrill squealing of brakes. George stiffened and gripped the door handle. In a low but reproving voice he might have used with one of his students, he said quietly, “You know.. .you’re quite reckless.”
I owe George an enormous debt for helping, indeed saving me at a critical time in my life of illness and depression,. In the early 198o’s, I developed symptoms that pushed me into the shadowy realm of neurology. My neurologists hinted at ALS, the dreaded Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was hospitalized with physical ailments and worsening depression.
George visited me, coming from class in shirt sleeves and sneakers. I poured out my lament, the deceptive neurologists, their despicable lies, my futile efforts to pin them down.
When I finished, George said. “Well, all right, but why aren’t you writing?”
Hadn’t he heard me? The doctors were deceiving me, concealing the truth, trying to drive me crazy!
“Yes, I know,” George said. “But why aren’t you writing?”
He returned the following day with several lined yellow pads and half a dozen pens. And for the remaining two weeks I spent in the hospital, despite feeling half-mad, I wrote.
One of my most vivid memories has nothing to do with books or philosophy. It was a summer many years ago. My wife Diana and I were visiting George and Sara at their home in Hyde Park. In the other rooms I remember the sounds of children but the four of us ate alone. George was preparing to teach at the Clearing in Wisconsin, and Sara was planning some overseas journey, perhaps another exotic destination such as Sri Lanka. Diana and I were on the verge of making another journey to Greece.
Sara had made spaghetti. As we sat around the kitchen table and ate, we laughed and talked and felt vigorous and full of plans and the future looming like a sunrise before us.
When I was a child and believed as a child with the faith and innocence of a child, our teacher told us that after we died we’d approach St. Peter who would ask several questions about family and devotion. If we passed we’d gain entry into Heaven.
Now I am far from the faith and innocence of childhood but if I could return to that time and to that faith, then I’d like to believe that after I die I would appear before St. Peter. I’d answer the questions correctly and he’d grant me entry into Heaven.
I would ask about family and about a few friends who had predeceased me. When I inquired about George, St. Peter pointed to a grove of trees. “He’s right over there with Plato and Aristotle. Go and join them.”
I joined the group and told George how pleased I was to be there, that I wasn’t expecting such a treasure, to meet those eminent philosophers in paradise.
And George would say, in that quiet but still firm voice, “Yes, all right, by why aren’t you writing?”
We know that nothing mortal is eternal. Ozymandias teaches us that truth. Yet as long as those of us who knew George live, throughout the lives of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, throughout the lives of his students, and, finally, through the bounty of his treasured books, George Anastaplo, husband, father, teacher, writer, friend, will be remembered.
William Braithwaite, June 6, 2014:
A Remembrance of George Anastaplo (1925-2014)
The Spirit of St. Louis
In the book of this title, Charles Lindberg recounts his non-stop solo flight, the first ever, across the Atlantic, New York to Paris. A piece of equipment critical to his success, when I read the book recently, resolved into what felt an apt image of what George Anastaplo did for my life. It was the map, which by a small stretch can be likened to a book.
Lindbergh, flying alone, took neither radio nor sextant. What let him be his own navigator was a strip of paper that looks, in pictures of it, about 6 by 18 inches. It was a Mercator projection, showing the North Atlantic between America and Europe, a flat map of the Earth’s curved surface, the lines of latitude and longitude meeting at right angles. It distorts areas, but compass headings taken on it are true. Lindbergh had marked his route with thirty-six of these, at 100-mile intervals.
He’d gotten the flying bug at 17, the same age George Anastaplo was when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. It was then he first put on the uniform he was buried in a few months ago, at Jefferson Barracks Military Cemetery, St. Louis. Both men flew bomber missions in World War II, Lindbergh a pilot, Anastaplo as a navigator. They had in common, as well, an extraordinary sense of independence and cool-headed self-reliance.
The two men were also alike in physical constitution. Lindbergh took a bottle of water and five sandwiches, but he ate only one, over Deauville, France. He hardly slept the night before take-off, and by the time his tumultuous reception in Paris let him get to bed, after the 33 ½ hour flight, he’d been without sleep for almost three days.
Reading this, I recalled Mr. Anastaplo telling me of long trans-Pacific flights when all his B-17 crew were asleep except himself. They trusted him to stay awake, and guide their way. He trusted his knowledge of cartographical geometry, which translated the physical world into points, lines, and numbers on paper.
His Spartan habit of sometimes ignoring food and sleep wasn’t essential to the academic life he later settled into, but his keeping it up after the war years was one condition of his remarkable scholarly productivity. An incidental consequence was that Sara liked my company on their long road trips, because I would insist that we stop at a motel every night and sleep in a real bed instead of the back seat, and eat a regular breakfast rather than cheese and crackers at a gas station.
The most memorable of our many travel adventures was in June 1992, when he and I were teaching law classes at Loyola’s Rome campus. Sara was there, and my wife and younger sons, ages five and three, with the youngest, George Michael, two months, toted by his Mother in a snuggly. We decided to visit the Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri.
After the four-hour trip—a bus, a train, another bus, a long hike to the tombs, then walking about for a couple hours in the Mediterranean sun, visions of pasta, and olives, and Italian lemonade beckoned us, on the return walk, into a roadside trattoria. Alas, the mid-day meal hour was long over, the chef asleep. But the proprietress, as we took her to be, pitying the bambino and his obviously fagged-out brothers, offered ice cream, a bottle of wine, and the shade of a secluded court behind the inn.
The adjacent vineyard, we learned, was the very source of that ambrosial white wine which Sara, Wendy, and I easily drank a liter of. The chirping of cicadas rose and fell in the trees, and sheep bells tinkled in the distance, as the two older boys became increasingly giddy over their cups of chocolate-ripple ice cream, which we discovered had generous pools of liqueur at the bottom.
My traveling years with the Anastaplos ran from the late seventies through the mid-nineties, when I left Loyola and Chicago behind, to become a Tutor at St. John’s College. Mr. Anastaplo encouraged this move, which by guiding my studies toward it, he resurrected as a live possibility, three decades after I had buried it as a lost dream in 1957, when for lack of money I couldn’t go to St. John’s as a student.
My path toward and into the books we study there began to be pointed by him in 1971, when I started the Basic Program. At the first class, Mr. Anastaplo asked a question about Plato’s dialogue Meno. I don’t remember the question, but I remember quite well being blind-sided by it. My studious and lawyerly preparation had gone in other, less fruitful, directions.
In the ensuing forty years, I heard many more such questions, making me notice, time and again, things in the book we were reading which I had not understood, or even seen. George Anastaplo became my navigator long before I had a clear idea where I really wanted to go.
He was also a steadfast and generous friend. A few weeks before he died, he sent me a new book on Euclid, knowing I’d be teaching his geometry again this Fall—the elementary mathematics that contributed to helping men fly across the ocean by following a polygonal line penciled on a map.
When he returned finally to St. Louis, he bequeathed me, and others, the self-trust that we could go on without him, as far as we each are able, offering guidance to others, as we continue to explore together the new worlds opened by old books.
William Braithwaite, Tutor, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland
Spoken June 6, 2014 at the Memorial Service at Bond Chapel,
The University of Chicago
John Van Doren, May 6, 2014:
I knew George for twenty years or so, first as a frequent contributor to The Great Ideas Today, which I edited for Mortimer Adler at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., and then, when we grew closer, George and I, as a friend and correspondent. I visited him and Sara fairly often at Harper Avenue, and we had annual meetings (with her) in North Carolina at a Humanities Conference where we both led seminars.
It may seem strange to say, on the strength of this acquaintance, that I considered him a close friend, one to whom I could say anything, but it was so. Our telephone conversations would go on for nearly an hour, when we seemed to have an endless amount to say to one another about whatever we were doing. He invited criticism though he never took it, and I took his, though out of courtesy he seldom offered any. Then, being a man of absolute integrity, and unbudgeable in his judgements, he was always dependable. I never changed his mind, though he often changed mine, and I accepted that and was glad of it, mostly. Incidentally he went out of his way to praise mutual friends, whom I do not wish to name, when they needed it, and I shall always be grateful for that.
A chapter might be written about his devotion to Sara in her last days. It was painful watching them together when she was no longer coherent. “She is intelligent,” he would say, speaking of her erratic behavior. “Permanent damage,” he reported briefly when the final medical report came in. I thought of the bright years they had had together.
In some ways I suppose he was–I know he was–a difficult man. But he was always good to me. It could fairly be said that the two of us were always good to each other. One does not have many friends like that in one’s life. I miss him.