Jo Desha Lucas, 1921-2010
Jo Desha Lucas, a professor in the University of Chicago Law School and an expert on local government and federal civil procedure, died May 9 in the University of Chicago Medical Center. He was 88.
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, June 17 at the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom of the Law School, 1111 E. 60th St.
Lucas joined the Law School faculty in 1953 as assistant professor and dean of students. He became a full professor in 1961 and was named the Arnold I. Shure Professor of Urban Law in 1984.
“Jo Lucas was already a veteran of almost 30 years at the Law School when I arrived in 1981,” said Richard Helmholz, the Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School. “He was then, and he always continued to be, a genial and welcoming colleague, ready to share the many things he knew from the school’s history.”
Lucas taught courses on civil procedure, federal courts, admiralty, local government, state and local taxation, torts, Indian law, labor law and legislation. He had a longtime interest in local governments and their rules, and his courses on state and local government and taxation probed the problems of state and city government at the local level.
“As a scholar he made important contributions to the modernization of rules of procedure in the federal and state courts,” said Helmholz, who best knew Lucas’ work in the law of admiralty. “He handled that difficult but fascinating subject with the care of a true professional, but also with a certain flair that fit both Jo’s character and that of the law on which he wrote.”
A native of Virginia and a member of a distinguished family from Kentucky, students and colleagues also recalled his southern accent and friendly charm.
“Former students of his remember him fondly for his practical and sympathetic help as dean of students and for his classes, peppered with anecdotes and colorful imagery,” according to a 1986 article in the Law School Record, a publication of the Law School.
He was a member and former chairman of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules committee and also served as reporter to the Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules for the federal courts. Among his publications are Cases on Admiralty and Moore’s Federal Practice, with former Law School faculty member James W. Moore.
Lucas was the major reviser of the work that Moore first wrote in the 1930s — Moore’s Federal Practice, which is one of two standard works on federal civil procedures. For many years, Lucas wrote annual supplements and later served as its chief editor.
“Lucas’ work is vitally important to the practice of law. No practicing lawyer can be without a treatise on federal practice and procedure,” the Record observed. Lucas was working on the sixth edition of his book, Admiralty Cases and Materials (Foundation Press).
Lucas grew up in Richmond and was a descendent of the Desha family, a family that includes Joseph Desha, a hero of the War of 1812 who was a congressman and governor of Kentucky. Lucas maintained his links to Kentucky by dressing in a linen suit from time to time at the Law School Wine Mess to show students how to make a perfect mint julep the day before the Kentucky Derby.
He received both an AB in 1947 and an MPA in 1951 from Syracuse University, an LLB in 1951 from the University of Virginia and a LLM in 1952 from Columbia University.
Survivors include his wife, Johanna Lucas; daughter, Robin Burgess; son, John (Claudia) Lucas; and grandson, Jo Desha Burgess.