University of Chicago Magazine Profile of George Anastaplo ’51

From the University of Chicago Magazine:

Justice Hugo Black once called George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64, “too stubborn for his own good.” Sixty-some years later, Anastaplo sits in a basement room in the Gleacher Center, in downtown Chicago, surrounded by a dozen adult-education students, the picture of cheerful amiability. At 86 years old, Anastaplo has taught in the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults for 55 years. A small man with white hair and clear gray eyes, wearing running shoes and an old tweed jacket, Anastaplo is lively and relaxed. A photocopy of Emerson’s essay “Friendship” lies on the table in front of him.

“I was appalled by how elitist Emerson was in his view of friendship,” says one student, a middle-aged woman.

Anastaplo’s eyes light up. He leans forward, and a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “You were appalled?” he says. She reads from a passage in which Emerson writes, “‘I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.’ Give me a break!” she exclaims, rolling her eyes. Delighted, Anastaplo swivels his head around the room. “Any reactions?”

This was not the life Anastaplo envisioned. On the morning of November 10, 1950, three days after his 25th birthday, he put on a coat and tie and headed downtown to the offices of the Chicago Bar Association, on LaSalle Street, for what he assumed would be the last step to launching a legal career in Illinois. The son of Greek immigrants from downstate Carterville, Anastaplo was a World War II veteran—he had navigated B-17 and B-29 bombers—and a top student at the University of Chicago Law School.

He had already passed the bar exam. He had begun talking to firms in the city. All that remained was a routine interview with two members of the Illinois Bar Association’s Committee on Character and Fitness. Anastaplo expected 15 minutes of pleasantries. Other applicants were waiting outside.

But the interview took an unexpected turn. After a few harmless questions, one of the lawyers asked Anastaplo if a member of the Communist Party should be eligible to practice law in Illinois. Anastaplo was surprised. “I should think so,” he said. But didn’t Communists believe in overthrowing the government? the lawyer asked. In the long colloquy that followed, Anastaplo, invoking George Washington and American political tradition, insisted that the right to revolt was “one of the most fundamental rights any people have.” The committee members were unconvinced. Finally the second one asked, “Are you a member of the Communist Party?”

Read the rest of the article here.