Dean of the University of Chicago Law School: 1950-1962
Edward Hirsch Levi was born in Chicago on June 26, 1911. He first became associated with the University of Chicago at the age of six, when he began kindergarten at the University’s Laboratory Schools. Levi’s family had been connected with the University since its founding in 1892; his grandfather Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch was a member the Divinity School’s faculty. He continued on at the University of Chicago for college, earning his Ph.B. in English in 1932 and his J.D. from the Law School in 1935. While in law school, Levi served as the editor of newly-established University of Chicago Law Review. Levi went on to a Sterling Fellowship at Yale Law School, where he received a J.S.D. (doctor of jurisprudence) in 1938.
Levi was appointed to the University of Chicago’s Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1936. Shortly before the United States’ entry into World War II, Levi turned his attention to government service. He worked in the U.S. Department of Justice from 1940-1945. Levi served as the Special Assistant to Attorney General Francis Biddle, then ran the Consent Decree Section followed by the Economic Warfare Section (part of the DOJ’s newly-created War Division). In 1944, Levi became the First Assistant to Wendell Berge, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division. Levi returned to Chicago in 1945, but continued to contribute to public service. In 1945 he advised the Federation of Atomic Scientists and in 1950 he served as Counsel to the Subcommittee on Monopoly Power of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee.
Levi married Kate Sulzberger in 1946. A fellow Chicago native, Sulzberger had grown up in Hyde Park and also attended the University’s Lab Schools. The couple had three sons: John, David, and Michael.
Levi served as dean of the University of Chicago Law School from 1950-1962, at which time he was appointed the first Provost of the University. The position of Provost was second only to the President of the University, an office to which Levi was elevated in 1968, making him the first Jewish president of a major American university. While in office, Levi established himself as a national authority on higher education and served on President Richard M. Nixon’s Task Force on Higher Education.
In 1975, looking to restore faith in the integrity of the U.S. Department of Justice after Watergate, President Gerald R. Ford named the well-respected Levi the U.S. Attorney General. In pursuit of this goal, Levi instituted an ethics code for government lawyers as well as regulations concerning the activities of government intelligence agents and FBI investigations of private citizens.
Levi left the Justice Department in 1977 and returned to the University of Chicago, where he taught in the College and the Law School until his retirement in 1984. Levi served as the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1986-1989, the first time the office was held by anyone outside of New England. He was also named a trustee of the University of Chicago as well as the MacArthur Foundation. Levi passed away in Chicago on March 7, 2000 at the age of 88.