We note with sadness the passing of Louis Henkin (right), who died this morning at age 92.
Lou, as some of us were honored to call him, may not have been much taller than I, but he was a true giant in our field -- in international law, particularly as it interrelates with the constitutional law of the United States.
I first met Lou soon after I began teaching at the University of California, Davis, School of Law; I was privileged to serve as a moderator when our Journal of International Law & Policy held a symposium to mark the 2d edition of Foreign Affairs and the Constitution (1997), one of Lou's many landmark books. His kindness and erudition were evident, as was the high regard of the assembled conference participants.
A year or two later, during an annual meeting of the American Society of International Law -- for which he served as President from 1994 to 1996 -- I was standing at a D.C. streetcorner, patiently waiting for the traffic signal to change. "You're obviously not from New York," came a voice from behind, and soon Lou, by then in his 80s, strode past me and safely crossed the empty road without regard for the red light.
Lou, he was a New Yorker.
Though born on Nov. 11, 1917, in what is now Belarus, he was resident in New York's Lower East Side by his 7th birthday, his family having fled anti-Jewish agitation in their homeland.
Following undergraduate studies at New York's Yeshiva University and law studies at Harvard, he clerked first for 2d Circuit Judge Learned Hand, then for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. He served in the Army during World War II, then worked at the U.S. Department of State, eventually arriving at Columbia Law School in 1956. There he undertook a truly stellar career in international law, marked by, among many other things, his service as Reporter of the Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States (1987). Many more career details may be found in this obituary at Columbia's website.
A last memory:
On one of the too-few opportunities I had to talk with Lou, we discussed a then-forthcoming casebook for which he was the 1st-listed author. He noted with pride that he had succeeded in naming the book, simply, Human Rights. No "international" to modify -- perhaps, implicitly to undercut -- what he saw as the chosen words' fundamental, universal essence.