Griswold, Erwin N. (1904–1994)

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GRISWOLD, ERWIN N. (1904–1994)

Erwin N. Griswold had a notable career as the dean of the Harvard Law School, solicitor general of the United States, and a leading tax practitioner. Born in 1904, he was graduated from Oberlin College and from Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. Griswold served as an attorney in the Solicitor General's Office for five years, arguing many cases in the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Invited to join the Harvard Law faculty in 1934, he remained until 1967, serving as dean from 1946–1967. With his powerful, somewhat brusque personality, he was nevertheless a fair-minded man, and he was heavily responsible for reinvigorating the Harvard Law School after world war ii. He also managed to find time to argue many cases in the Supreme Court, mostly tax matters.

Griswold resigned as dean in 1967 when appointed Solicitor General by President lyndon b. johnson, and he continued in that increasingly difficult role under President richard m. nixon until 1973. As Solicitor General, Griswold argued the government's losing position in the Pentagon Papers case, new york times v. united states (1971), and its winning position in both the draft card burning case united states v. o ' brien (1968) and the desegregation case swann v. charlotte-mecklenburg board of education (1971), in which the use of large-scale school busing to remedy intentional segregation was first approved by the Court. He then went into private practice in Washington, D.C., where he continued an active appellate practice until his death in 1994.

In the 1950s, when Senator Joseph McCarthy was leading his anti-Communist crusade, Griswold, himself a Republican, made a major contribution to constitutional law in a series of lectures in which he defended the right against self-incrimination as an important part of our constitutional liberties. While at Harvard Law School, he also served the cause of racial justice by appearing as an expert witness for thurgood marshall in civil rights cases and by becoming an effective and energetic member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Griswold played a leading role in American law for sixty years as public and private practitioner, teacher, scholar, and legal educator.

Andrew L. Kaufman


Griswold, Erwin N. 1955 The 5th Amendment Today. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.