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Edward H. Levi

Edward H. Levi
71st United States Attorney General
In office
February 2, 1975 – January 26, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by William B. Saxbe
Succeeded by Griffin Bell
Personal details
Born Edward Hirsch Levi
(1911-06-26)June 26, 1911
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died March 7, 2000(2000-03-07) (aged 88)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Kate Levi
Children David F. Levi
Michael Levi
John G. Levi
Alma mater University of Chicago (B.A, J.D)
Yale Law School (LLM, SJD)
Religion Judaism

Edward Hirsch Levi (June 26, 1911 – March 7, 2000) was an American law professor, academic leader, scholar, and statesman. He served as president of the University of Chicago from 1968 to 1975, and then as United States Attorney General in the Ford Administration. Levi is regularly cited as the "model of a modern attorney general,"[1][2][3] the "greatest lawyer of his time,"[4] and is credited with restoring order after Watergate.[5] He is considered, along with Yale's Whitney Griswold, the greatest of postwar American university presidents.[6]


  • Early life 1
  • Education and political career 2
  • Later life 3
  • References 4

Early life

Levi was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son and grandson of rabbis. His maternal grandfather was Emil Gustav Hirsch, son of the German philosopher and rabbi Samuel Hirsch. He received his A.B. Phi Beta Kappa from the undergraduate college of the University of Chicago in 1932, and later his J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School in 1935. The following year he was named an assistant professor of law at the Law School and was admitted to the Illinois bar. He earned a J.S.D. from Yale Law School, where he was also a Sterling Fellow in 1938.

Education and political career

During World War II he served as a special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. In 1945, he returned to the University of Chicago Law School and was named dean of the law school in 1950. In 1950, he also worked as chief counsel for the Subcommittee on Monopoly Power of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. He resigned as law school dean and became provost of the university in 1962.

He was a member of the White House Central Group on Domestic Affairs in 1964, the White House Task Force on Education from 1966 to 1967 and the President's Task Force on Priorities in Higher Education from 1969 to 1970.

He became the University of Chicago's president in 1968, serving until 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford appointed him 71st Attorney General of the United States. Levi was the first Jewish Attorney General of the United States. During his presidency of the University of Chicago he refused to call the Chicago City Police to evict students occupying the university administrative building.

During his term as Attorney General, he issued a set of guidelines (in 1976) to limit the activities of the FBI. These guidelines required the FBI to show evidence of a crime before using secret police techniques like wiretaps or entering someone's home without warning. These guidelines were replaced by new ones issued in 1983 by Ronald Reagan's Attorney General, William French Smith. He urged President Ford to appoint Robert Bork, who was his former student and Solicitor General, or fellow Chicagoan John Paul Stevens to the United States Supreme Court, and Ford followed his advice.[7][8] Levi later testified in support of Bork at his confirmation hearing.[9] Serving under him, in various high staff positions, were such people as Rudolph Giuliani, Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Rex E. Lee, and Arthur Raymond Randolph.[10]

Later life

After his term as Attorney General, he returned to teaching at the University of Chicago's Law School and College. He was a visiting professor at Stanford University Law School from 1977 to 1978.

He was the author of An Introduction to Legal Reasoning, which was first published in 1949 and his speeches were collected in Point of View: Talks on Education.

He was a trustee of the University of Chicago and the MacArthur Foundation. He was a chairman and a member of the Council on Legal Education for Professional Responsibility.

He died in Chicago, Illinois, aged 88, of Alzheimer's disease on March 7, 2000. In 2005, the Justice Department commemorated the 30th anniversary of his appointment as Attorney General with a ceremony and creation of the Edward H. Levi Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Exemplary Integrity.[11] The Award was established to pay tribute to the memory and achievements of Mr. Levi, whose career as an attorney, law professor and dean, and public servant exemplified these qualities in the best traditions of the Department. Friends and former colleagues, including former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld; U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia; former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach; and former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge and Solicitor General Robert H. Bork, gathered to honor Mr. Levi.[12]

He has three sons, David, Michael, and John. David F. Levi is a former federal judge and the current dean of Duke Law School. John G. Levi was recently confirmed to the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.


  1. ^ Peter Lattman (December 28, 2006). "President Ford’s Legal Legacy: Edward Levi". WSJ Law Blog.  
  2. ^ E. J. Dionne Jr. (August 28, 2007). "Calling Ed Levi".  
  3. ^ Peter Lattman (November 9, 2007). "Michael Mukasey’s Job: Be Like Ed Levi". WSJ Law Blog.  
  4. ^ Richard Stern. What Is What Was.  
  5. ^ Neil A. Lewis (March 8, 2000). "Edward H. Levi, Attorney General Credited With Restoring Order After Watergate, Dies at 88".  
  6. ^ George W. Liebmann. The Common Law Tradition: A Collective Portrait Of Five Legal Scholars.  
  7. ^ Tom Curry (December 26, 2006). "Ford’s most important legacy: Stevens".  
  8. ^ Richard A. Epstein (April 10, 2010). "The Stevens Legacy: Mixed Verdict".  
  9. ^ Stuart Taylor Jr. (September 22, 1987). "THE BORK HEARINGS: A LONG PARADE OF WITNESSES, PRO AND CON; Ex-Officials Praise Bork; Others See Him as a Threat".  
  10. ^ David S. Broder (December 28, 2006). "How Ford's Legacy Still Serves".  
  12. ^ "Justice Department Levi Award".  
Academic offices
Preceded by
George W. Beadle
President of the University of Chicago
Succeeded by
John T. Wilson
Legal offices
Preceded by
William B. Saxbe
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Gerald Ford

Succeeded by
Griffin B. Bell
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