Professor Louis Henkin ’40, Father of Human Rights, Dies at 92

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Louis Henkin ’40 died this month after a life of contributions to human rights research and advocacy.

 

Columbia Law Professor Louis Henkin ‘40, often called the Father of Human Rights, passed away on October 14 at the age of 92.

According to the New York Times, Henkin applied to Harvard Law School on a whim after graduating from Yeshiva University in 1937. He went on to edit the Harvard Law Review and clerk for Judge Learned Hand at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan before he serving in the Army during World War II. During his service, Henkin convinced a German force of 78 men to surrender to his 13-man group and earned the Silver Star. Upon his return, Henkin clerked for Justice Felix Frankfurter at the United States Supreme Court.

Still, Henkin’s most remembered achievements are his contributions to Human Rights scholarship and advocacy. Henkin founded Columbia’s Center for the Study of Human Rights in 1978 and its Human Rights Institute in 1998.  He authored forceful works in the field of human rights, including “Foreign Affairs and the Constitution,” “The Rights of Man Today,” “How Nations Behave,” and “The Age of Rights.” Collectively, the New York Times referred to his work as “required reading for government officials and diplomats.”

“Loius Henkin was a giant in the field and a pioneer in the cause of human rights in the United States,” said Professor James Cavallaro, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Human Rights Program.

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