Kramer ’38, dean, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, scholar

Robert Kramer ’38, professor, legal scholar, Dean of the George Washington University National Law Center for 18 years, and Assistant Attorney General of the United States, Office of Legal Counsel during the latter years of the Eisenhower administration, died of natural causes at his home in the Collington Episcopal Life Care Community near Washington, D.C. on Feb. 1, 2001. He was 87 years old.

Dean Kramer was born in Davenport, Iowa, on Aug. 17, 1913, son of Robert E. Kramer, merchant and broker, and Nita Mapes Kramer. He graduated from Davenport Central High School in 1931, from Harvard College cum laude in 1935, and from Harvard Law School magna cum laude in 1938, where he was Legislation Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Throughout his college and law school years, he worked summers at the law offices of Mayer, Meyer (now Mayer, Brown & Platt) in Chicago, Ill.

As a young attorney, he joined the National Labor Relations Board in its formative years (1938-40) and subsequently moved to the Anti-Trust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (1941). From September 1940 to September 1941, and again from January 1942 to September 1945, he was legal adviser to the Chief of Ordnance in the Fiscal, Fiscal and Legal, and Legal Divisions of the Army of the United States. The Legion of Merit he received for his wartime work reads, in part: “Many of Major Kramer’s expert accomplishments were entirely original, establishing basic principles in the field of contract law.” Dean Kramer retired from active service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During these same years, he met and married his wife of 52 years, the late Mary Rainey Gaston of Washington, D.C., daughter of Herbert E. Gaston, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Mary Gaston Kramer was then employed as an economist with the Farm Credit Administration and subsequently with the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. She died in 1993.

After the war, Dean Kramer and his family moved to New York, where he was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Wharton & Garrison from 1946 to 1947, before joining the faculty of the Duke University Law School (1947 tp 1959). He edited Law and Contemporary Problems (1947 to 1956), the Journal of Legal Education (1948 to 1955), and was American editor of The Business Law Review (1952 to 1955). He also co-authored (with C.L.B. Lowndes and J. McCord) the standard treatise Federal Estate and Gift Taxes (West Publishing Company, 1956, 1962, 1974), in addition to many articles in diverse fields, including administrative law, conflict of laws, jurisprudence and federal taxation. His former colleague David Seidelson (Professor Emeritus, George Washington University Law School), writing in the George Washington University Law Review at the time of Dean Kramer’s retirement, praised him as an author and editor of “enormous intellect” and “extraordinary language facility.” Professor Seidelson concluded, “That is professional versatility.” He maintained an abiding curiosity and wide reading inside and outside the law, in later years re-reading all of Austen, Dickens and Trollope.

Between 1959 and 1961, Dean Kramer, a life-long Democrat, was Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, in the Department of Justice, in which capacity he prepared opinions for the late William P. Rogers as Attorney General and, at his own request, argued various cases for the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court, at times questioned closely by his former Harvard professor, Justice Felix Frankfurter.

In 1961 he became Professor of Law and Dean of the George Washington University National Law Center. At his retirement in 1979, GW President Lloyd H.Elliott paid tribute to Dean Kramer’s achievements over nearly two decades in transforming a largely part-time service school into a law school of national standing, raising academic standards and attracting a first-rate faculty, energizing the alumni association, creating an endowment and building a new law library. His former colleague, Prof. Seidelson, wrote that Dean Kramer guided the school through the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s with “a nearly perfect amalgam of sympathetic understanding and tough-minded professionalism.”

As a lawyer, scholar and educator, Dean Kramer believed that lawyers need not only analytic skills, but also a wide-ranging liberal education. In a speech at the University of Virginia in the late 1950s, Dean Kramer reflected on his own experience to urge undergraduates considering careers in law not to restrict their education to pre-professional training, but rather to study whatever interested them, in order to acquire not only “certain techniques of learning, such as the ability to read and write well and to do research,” but, equally important, “knowledge and understanding of the arts and sciences, the humanities, in their broadest sense – to gain insight into man’s life and industry – for law, after all, is but an adjunct to these.”

Dean Kramer was a Life Member of the American Law Institute, which he was invited to join in 1948. He served on the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools. He was also a long-time member of the Cosmos Club and of the University Club of Washington, D.C., and served on the Board of Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church, Georgetown.

He is survived by his three children, Robert G. Kramer of Annapolis, Md.; Elizabeth K. Helsinger of Chicago, Ill.; and Lucy Keefe of Boston, Mass.; and by nine grandchildren.

Am-Ex executive Clark ’42

Howard Clark ’42, a visionary executive who helped transform American Express Co. into a modern corporate giant, died Friday of cardiac arrest at his home in Greenwich, Conn. He was 84 years old.

When Clark was named president and chief executive of American Express in 1960, the company’s green charge card was two years old and losing money. He rejected an offer to sell the business to Diners Club, a competitor, and chose instead to aim the American Express Card at well-heeled travelers who had just begun to take advantage of the first commercial passenger jets.

The card soon began making money, and with the famous advertising campaign in which recognizable names with not-so-recognizable faces asked, “Do you know me?”, it became the company’s most profitable business. A second successful advertising campaign, with the slogan “Don’t leave home without it,” helped increase sales of the company’s traveler’s checks. By the time Clark retired as chief executive in 1977, American Express had 650 offices in 108 countries and eight million cardholders.

Clark was born in 1916 in South Pasadena, Calif. After graduating from Stanford University in 1937, he attended Columbia University’s business school and Harvard Law School. He served as a lieutenant in the navy during World War II and then joined American Express in 1945 as an assistant in the executive office.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

Times counsel Marsching ’53

Ronald Marsching ’53 of Woodbury, Conn., died Feb. 7, 2001. He was an attorney with the law firm of White & Case before becoming General Counsel and Secretary of the Timex Corporation. He retired in 1986 as Vice Chairman. He leaves his wife Marjory and daughters Christine of Paris and Jane of Boston. While at HLS, Marsching had been a member of Lincoln’s Inn and the Cardozo Club.

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