Dean of the University of Chicago Law School: 1975-1979
Norval Morris was born in 1923 in Auckland, New Zealand and attended schools in Australia, France, and England. Her served in the Australian army during World War II and then completed LL.B. (1946) and LL.M (1947) degrees at the University of Melbourne. Morris earned his doctorate in law and criminology (1949) at the London School of Economics (LSE), where his thesis garnered the Hutchinson Medal.
After lecturing at LSE for a year, Morris returned to Australia to practice law as a barrister and to teach at the University of Melbourne. In 1951, Morris was a founding member of Melbourne’s Department of Criminology. During the 1950s he also taught at Harvard University and the University of Utah. In 1958, Morris chaired the commission on capital punishment in what is now Sri Lanka. That same year, he became the Bonython Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until 1962. From 1962 to 1964, Morris served as the founding director of the United Nations’ first criminal justice agency, the UN Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (Asia and Far East). For his service to the Tokyo-based agency, the Japanese government awarded Morris the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class.
In 1964, Morris joined the University of Chicago Law School faculty. The following year he was named the inaugural Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology and became the director of the Law School’s newly-founded Center for Studies in Criminal Justice. In the 1970s, Morris was an influential force behind the establishment of the National Institute of Corrections, a federal agency that assists state and local prison and probation systems.
Morris succeeded Phil C. Neal to become the seventh dean of the University of Chicago Law School in 1975. Two years later, Morris co-founded Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, widely regarded as the world’s preeminent journal of criminology. Throughout his career, Morris served on many national and international bodies related to criminal justice and penal policy. He was also active in the local community, sitting on the Police Board of the City of Chicago from 1979-1987, as well as the board of the John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison reform organization, which Morris advised for 20 years. Morris’s professional affiliations included fellowships and board positions with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Bar Foundation, the American Society of Criminology, and the Chicago Bar Foundation, among others.
Morris stepped down as dean in 1979 but continued on the Law School’s faculty until he took emeritus status in 1994. He continued to remain active in the Law School’s clinical programs as a consultant and advisor.
Outside of his legal work, Morris’s hobbies and interests included publishing a small weekly newspaper in Maine; honing his tennis skills; flying as a private pilot; keeping up chess games with players across the world; and dabbling in entrepreneurial pursuits.
Morris passed away in 2004. He was survived by his wife, Elaine Richardson Morris, their three sons, Gareth, Malcolm, and Christopher, and three grandchildren. At the time of his death, Morris was working on a book titled “Murderers” Among Us, which told the stories of individuals wrongfully convicted of homicide whom he helped exonerate.