In my capacity as founding director of what is now the Whitney Harris World Law Institute, I had the privilege of working with Whitney during those early years of the Institute and getting to know him and his loving wife, Anna. By now it has become trite to observe what an inspiration Whitney was to all of us, but that is indeed the case – a larger than life figure with limitless talent, a big heart, and a self-effacing, down-to-earth personal style that would have given no indication of his extraordinary accomplishments. But with all that, I have to say that my single most vivid memory was of his 90th birthday party, where Stan Musial played “Take me out to the ball game” for Whitney on his harmonica, and where Whitney’s son admiringly recounted how, the day before, the then 90-year-old legend had played 18 holes of golf, followed by dinner, dancing, and swimming, before unsuccessfully trying to convince his exhausted friends and family to go out for some walking. It was both touching and uplifting to see the mutual love, respect, and admiration that Whitney and Anna so obviously felt for one another. As for me, I feel proud to be one of those whom Whitney called “little buddy.”
The John S. Lehmann University Professor
Washington University School of Law
A Personal Remembrance and Tribute
I first met Whitney in 2000 within a few months after I had joined the Washington University law faculty. Steve Legomsky introduced us at the inaugural conference of the Institute that would soon bear Whitney’s name. As I recall, Steve noted as usual Whitney’s prominent role as a prosecutor in the main Nuremberg Trials. Two years later, just before Whitney’s 90th birthday, the Dean of the Law School, Joel Seligman, asked if I would be willing to succeed Steve as the Director of the newly named Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies. I thus attended the celebration of Whitney’s 90th birthday as the director-designate of his Institute. On that occasion, I learned the fuller range of Whitney’s interests, extraordinary contributions, and personal warmth. Surrounded by friends and family, he glowed with pleasure and affection. His enduring friendships were evident. Stan Musial played the harmonica. One by one, family members testified to at Whitney’s love of family, good counsel, and energy. Throughout the celebration, members of the community who had known Whitney and Anna for many years expressed in turn their affection and gratitude.
That even I also discovered shared experiences and interests. Whitney was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where I had lived and worked for most of my career. He also began his university education where I ended mine-- in Seattle at the University of Washington. His first trip outside of the United States was to Japan in 1933, and throughout his life, he retained a deep interest in Japan, serving at one point as President of the Japan-America Society of St. Louis.
No one could have been more supportive of the Institute and its programs during my five years as Director. Whitney seemed to revel in the diverse seminars and conferences we organized and sponsored, whether comparison of professional baseball in the United States and Japan “Mitts Across the Pacific” to the debate over the return of the Elgin marbles and other cultural artifacts of the conference on “Imperialism, Art and Restitution”. I was equally privileged to have been able to work with him as he both inspired and led the planning effort for the last conference of my term—the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Judgment for which, thanks to Darryl Barker and his remarkably able audio visual staff, we have a permanent record. Whitney put heart and soul into this conference, which by all accounts was one of the most substantive as well as memorable of all of the Nuremberg judgment celebrations.
I was privileged—indeed, favored-- to have known Whitney, to have worked with him, to have shared time with him and Anna, and, above all, to have had a glimpse of his kindness, generosity, and the good will he extended so graciously to all around him.
John O. Haley
William R. Orthwein Distinguished Professor of Law
Washington University School of Law
I hope to be able to pay tribute to my old friend and colleague at the Chautauqua conference in August. I have noted that the theme this year will be the crime of aggression, a topic close to Whitney's great heart.
It would be most gratifying if the Kampala review conference in June would recognize that view of Justice Jackson, Telford Taylor, and countless others – That the most important contribution of the Nuremberg trials was the recognition that aggression was the supreme international crime for which the responsible leaders should be held accountable in an international criminal court. I hope that sound conclusion will be confirmed at Kampala as some deterrent to future wars.
With Whitney gone, I am the lone Nuremberg survivor holding up the Nuremberg banner. I have entered my 91st year and I know that we are going to need all the help we can get to remove the current impunity from the ICC Statute. Whitney would join with me in expressing appreciation for your help in supporting that noble goal.
The highest tribute one can pay to the memory of my friend and colleague Whtiney Harris is to cite his own conclusion about the Nuremberg trial. In his book TYRANNY ON TRIAL, he quotes the IMT decisions that to initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime and that law applies equally to victor and vanquished. In Whitney's own concluding words: "The initiating and waging of aggressive war is now indisputably criminal. No more important decision was ever made by any court," (p.536)
May Whitney's wisdom and vision guide us all to future world peace.
Benjamin B. Ferencz
Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case.
I am very sorry to hear the sad news. … Whitney stood very firm on the video-clip that captured his words for the conference, and it is nice for us all to have this beautiful last image of him to remember. I am so pleased that he lived to see the results of the Crimes Against Humanity conference. We will all remember him as a remarkable personality, and a charming, warm person whom we will all miss.
Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert
International Criminal Court
Whitney Harris lived through a period of great historic importance in which he played a significant role. Decades from now, we will reread the proceedings of the Nuremberg trial, or see him in the films of it, and recall his charm and dignity. He was a lucky man to have had the opportunity to make such a contribution. We owe him a great debt for having spent the rest of his life both commemorating and building upon on that great achievement.
Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights
National University of Ireland, Galway
It was one the privileges of my professional career to know and befriend Whitney Harris. We first met in 1995 in Nuremberg at the seminar held by the Mayor of Nuremberg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials in which Whitney played a leading role. I will never forget Whitney's wonderful voice, resonating in the very courtroom where the trial of the Nazi leaders was held, quoting the memorable words of Justice Robert Jackson. No one present was not moved. Whitney never ceased to work for international justice and the ending of impunity for war criminals. It was also a privilege to work with Whitney on the still on-going project to draft an International Convention on Crimes against Humanity. Whitney lived a full and productive life until the end. I send my heartfelt condolences to Anna and the other members of his family. I know they will find comfort in the love and life's work of dear Whitney.
Richard J. Goldstone
Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
Former Chief Prosecutor of the UN Internatiuonal Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
I was saddened to hear about the death of your beloved founder and colleague, Whitney Harris. I truly extend my sympathy to his wife and to the Institute. I'm sure that the foundation, which he squarely built, has trembled during these last few hours. I want to express what an honor it was for me to be in the presence of such a forefather of international legal practice.
Patricia Viseur Sellers
Humanitarian Law Consultant, International Criminal Law
Please accept my empathy at this time.
Warm regards from Berkeley,
Senior Researcher, University of Oslo, Law Faculty
Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley
Director, Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law
I am very sorry to hear this news, but I am grateful to you for letting me know. My warm thoughts to the family, to you, and colleagues at Washington University. He was an amazing guy, and they just don’t make them like that anymore.
Director, International Justice Program
Human Rights Watch
To say that Whitney Harris “never met a stranger” would be an understatement. Whitney was a gentleman of the first order and always gracious with his time. I met him several times over the years, but will always remember our first meeting in St. Louis at an Art Restitution symposium sponsored by his Institute. He immediately approached me as a new young scholar in the field, invited me to lunch and made me feel part of the greater academy that was coalescing around his project at Wash U. The last time we were together was in Germany in December 2008. When we rose to address the audience in the Great Hall at Philipps University in Marburg, and that rich baritone began to command the room, people fell silent and listened with care to what he had to say. This was one of Whitney’s great abilities – the combination of a humble and accessible personality with the sweep of his advocacy skills. As I assisted him from the building that night out onto the cobblestones of that wonderful little town with his wife and our friends John Barrett and Christoph Safferling, I recalled thinking what a great man he was and remained. And that he came from a time when giants still walked the earth. The Jacksons, Roosevelts, Churchills and Marshalls. And that, unfortunately, we are not destined to see their like again. Goodspeed Whitney!
Michael J. Kelly, Professor of Law
Associate Dean for Faculty Research & Int'l Programs
Creighton University School of Law
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. As I mentioned last night, Leila, I was so moved by your tribute to Whitney Harris. I thought it captured his extraordinary contributions, deep humanity, and impact on you and Washington University so well. It was beautifully written and a wonderful celebration of his life.
Hari M. Osofsky
Washington & Lee University School of Law
I was deeply saddened to read this morning of Whitney R. Harris's passing. He was a giant in international criminal justice and a person who represented throughout his life all the very best in human affairs. I know you, along with the students and faculty at Washington University School of Law, are proud that his legacy will live on through the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. Our world is a better place because of Whitney and the responsibility now falls upon each of us to carry his vision forward.
Stuart D. Yoak, Ph.D.
Executive Director and Lecturer in Professional Ethics
The Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values Washington University in St. Louis
It feels like the end of an era to hear that Whitney Harris is no longer with us; as he liked to say, he was the last “podium prosecutor” from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. I first met Whitney in 2006, at Leila Sadat’s wonderful conference on legacies of Nuremberg, and then on several other occasions after I came on board teaching the History of International Law at Washington University. At the 2006 conference, a film was shown with a shot of an incredibly handsome, dark-haired young man at the podium in Nuremberg’s famous courtroom 600. I was familiar with these photos and started to applaud . . . alone! “That’s Whitney!” Anna called out – it was almost as if no one could quite believe that this courtly, older gentleman had once been so very glamorous, as well. People actually gasped before applauding. It was always a thrill to sense such a direct, personal connection with the IMT in his presence. You could feel the freshness of his interest in and commitment to international justice, even in his mid-90s; the young people with whom he continued to meet felt this commitment as well.
More recently, Whitney shared with us how much he was moved by Professor Sadat’s Crimes Against Humanity initiative in his words of encouragement to kick off the Washington University-based phase of that important project. Each time we saw each other, he remembered that I had written a book on Nuremberg and to my astonishment, actually seemed to have read it. The study of the main Nuremberg Trial enters a new, more archival phase with his passing.
Associate Professor of History and Associate Professor of Law (by courtesy)
Washington University in St Louis
I am all the more grateful that you brought Mr. Harris to speak to our International Criminal Law class last Spring. Thank you again for doing so, and please pass along our class' appreciation to his family.
Third-year law student
Washington University School of Law
I am very sad to learn of this news. My thoughts and prayers will be with the Harris family, and please extend my condolences to Anna, his family, and all his friends.
With all good wishes,
Rice Distinguished Professor,
Director, S.J.D. Program,
Director, Two-Year J.D. Program for Foreign Trained Lawyers
The University of Kansas School of Law