ORAL HISTORY OF
First Interview – July 10, 1997
This is the first interview of a contemplated series of oral history interviews with
Professor Samuel Dash. The interview took place at Professor Dash’s office at Georgetown Law
Center in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 1997. The interviewer is Zona F. Hostetler, an attorney
in private practice.
Ms. Hostetler: Professor Dash, you’ve been a prominent and distinguished lawyer,
not only as a law school professor but also as a private practitioner and, most notably, in public
life. We want to talk about all of these careers, about your scholarship and leadership in the
fields of criminal justice and legal ethics, your work as a prosecutor, as a law professor, as a bar
leader, and, of course, we especially want to talk about your work for the government, including
your famous work as Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate investigation of President Richard
Nixon, known as the Watergate investigation. But before we get to all of these illustrious
careers, let’s go back to the period before you even went to Harvard Law School. Were there any
lawyers in your family?
Professor Dash: No, I was the first lawyer in the family. Actually, in our family I
was the first person to get a post-graduate degree.
Ms. Hostetler: Had your parents gone to college?
Professor Dash: No, my mother and father came to this country fleeing from Russia
during the Pogroms of the early 1900’s, and both of them were about five years old when they
came. They grew up as poor immigrants, in Philadelphia, and I don’t think they even went
to high school. But my mother read a lot, and she was very literate. My father ended up in
wholesale dry goods with his brother who had a leading business in dry goods. But my father
was a failure in it, because he really was a dreamer without an education to realize his dreams.
During World War II he found himself and worked in the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia as
an electronic parts specialist.
Ms. Hostetler: What kind of books did your mother like to read?
Professor Dash: Everything. She read the newspapers, from front to back. She
would pick up and read everything. She was a voracious reader. And a believer in education.
And I think all of us – I had three brothers, and later two sisters – were urged to get as good an
education as we could get, and told that that would be the only way in which we could succeed in
Ms. Hostetler: And did your father support her in that view?
Professor Dash: Yes, I think he supported her.
Ms. Hostetler: Did your mother read to you?
Professor Dash: No, her reading was personal. But she always was very interested
in what we were doing in public school, what our grades were, and she constantly held up to us a
very high standard of achievement.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you like to read yourself, or were you doing other activities?
Professor Dash: Oh yes. Well, even before I was a junior high school student, I was
constantly going to the library and bringing home piles of books. Most of them were fiction —
the romantic fiction of the times, like the Three Musketeers, and I sort of lived out the things I
read. As for activities, primarily I was forming aviation clubs. At that time, airplanes weren’t
what we have today, but the Richfield Company and its gas stations would give out silver wings
to young people and admit them into the Richfield aviation club. So I formed a group of the
neighborhood kids, and we got orange boxes. And we sat on the orange boxes as planes. At that
time, you flew planes with a stick and I was teaching them what positions the stick should be in
in order to bank, or dive, the plane. We wore our wings, and we took it very seriously.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you get to go inside real planes?
Professor Dash: No, but every once in a while a couple of us would ride our bikes
to the Philadelphia airport, which was then a very small airport, to watch the planes.
Ms. Hostetler: What years would this have been?
Professor Dash: Well I would have been then, about ten years old.
Ms. Hostetler: You were born when?
Professor Dash: 1925, so this would been in the mid l930’s.
Ms. Hostetler: Was Russian spoken in your family at all?
Professor Dash: No, my mother and father being five years old when they came to
this country spoke a little bit of Yiddish, but they didn’t know very much Yiddish. I do
remember Yiddish curse words – that’s how I grew up knowing what Yiddish meant. My parents
had older sisters and brothers, who were older when they came here, and they were very
traditional Jews. They spoke Yiddish fluently. Some of them kept Kosher…and they would
criticize my mother for not keeping Kosher.
Ms. Hostetler: So your mother was the rebel in the family?
Professor Dash: Well, she was the American in the family.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you know your grandparents?
Professor Dash: No. I do remember my mother’s mother living not that far away,
and visiting her once or twice, but I have really almost no recollection of grandparents.
Ms. Hostetler: You said earlier you had brothers and sisters?
Professor Dash: Yes, I had an older brother Harold, who died during the Watergate
hearings in 1973. He was an architect, and as a matter of fact offered his services gratuitously
during Watergate. We didn’t have any place to put the staff. I had a hundred investigators and
lawyers and administrative people, and we took over the Senate auditorium. But it had a sloping
floor and had all those seats. Harold redesigned it for us so it became a gigantic office space with
cubicles and all that. And it remained that way for Senator Church’s Select Committee on
Intelligence. It’s since gone back to being an auditorium. Harold was an avid follower of the
Ms. Hostetler: Where did he live?
Professor Dash: He lived in Philadelphia.
Ms. Hostetler: And that’s where his architectural firm was?
Professor Dash: Yes. He belonged to a very good architectural firm.
Ms. Hostetler: And what about your other siblings?
Professor Dash: Harold was the older brother, I was second, then Abraham was the
third brother. It’s interesting about him because he was the competitor, coming after Harold and
me. Harold and I had achieved much during our school years, so he was constantly attempting to
outdo us–even to the point that he would pick a fight with us. And the two of us actually
battered him down to the ground once, and I think blood was coming from his mouth, and he just
grinned up at us and said, “You’re getting tired, aren’t you?” (laughter) He went to the Naval
Academy, got hurt in boxing, and joined the Air Force, and became a bomber pilot. He stayed on
in the reserves and he got finally to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. But the interesting thing is
that he still wanted to beat me at everything. In the early sixties I represented the Teamsters in
Philadelphia – that is, some of Hoffa’s lieutenants. And Abe who had graduated from law school
offered his services to Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, to beat me. And that’s when Bob
Kennedy made a terrible mistake. He said, “How can I bring Dash’s brother into this case, he’s
going to favor Dash.” He didn’t know that he would have had a great weapon – this guy would
have torn me apart if he could. And so Abe instead became a deputy counsel to the Comptroller
of the Currency, and investigated all kinds of banking frauds. Then he decided he would
compete with me in the law school field. So he’s now a professor of law at the University of
Maryland Law School–where, I understand from the parents and students every time they meet
me, that he’s a great teacher.
Ms. Hostetler: And did you have another brother?
Professor Dash: Yes, Raymond, who was the last in the line of the boys. He was a
math expert and went into computers. In fact, he was in the pioneering period of computers when
they began to use computers to predict the outcome of presidential elections. He was working
with RCA, and he would be on those television programs predicting the election results. He later
taught computer technology at Northwestern University and he ended up advising a large
insurance company in Chicago about its need to computerize. He was the only one who seemed
to know anything about it and so they made him a vice-president of the corporation. He stayed
with them for a while, and then finally retired. But he still teaches computer technology at
Ms. Hostetler: And you have a sister?
Professor Dash: I have two sisters. They came late. And when I left in 1943 to
become an aviation cadet they were somewhere around maybe seven and four. One was
Jeannette and the other was Ruth. I never really was able to establish a good relationship because
after I left to join the Air Corps, I really didn’t come home much. This is because during my
leave – and I’ll talk to you about it – I met Sara who became my wife. I should say I met Sara
again, because we had both been students at the same junior high school–Sulzberger Junior High
School in Philadelphia. I was a year ahead of her and I was “big man on campus.” I was the
captain of the Safeties, and then president of the student government association. We were in the
dramatic club together and we even played opposite each other, but we really didn’t–well, as she
tells it, she had dated every other boy in the club. And I was always a very serious young man –
always had to get off to work as soon as possible. And she says she had looked me over but at
that time, she says, I was emaciated, had an Adam’s apple as large as an orange, and I looked like
Lincoln after he was assassinated. And she says she felt pity for me–would I ever get married?
Now, you know, there’s a bit of poetic justice in this. Anyway, during my leave time, after I had
returned from Italy, I went to Atlantic City, which was our vacation spot, and I saw this pretty
girl walking on the boardwalk with her family. I was with a boyhood friend who remembered
her and he said to me, “That’s Sara Goldhirsh.” And so we followed her on the boardwalk to see
where she was staying so we’d know what beach she’d be using the next morning. So, the next
morning I “accidentally” met her in the ocean. We went dancing that night. But I had to go back
to my air field, and I asked her to wait for me.
Then I plied her with poetry. I’m a poet – I write sonnets – and I’ve been writing them
since I was a teenager. And I sent her a poem almost every day, through special delivery. And
that really disturbed the neighborhood because in those days during the war, a boy on a Western
Union bicycle coming with a message was a bad, bad omen, and she begged me, please, send it
by regular mail, not by special delivery. I just wanted her to get it right away.
Ms. Hostetler: Was your poetry saved over the years?
Professor Dash: We have a book that I kept, and then added to it. Most of the
poetry that’s in that book is from the 1940s though there are some earlier ones. I thought I was
going to be a writer because I had this romantic vision of life and I wanted to talk about it, and
poetry came easy for me. I tried to experiment when I went to Central High School which is, if
you don’t know Philadelphia, the Boston Latin School of Philadelphia. It dates back to the
1820s. It’s the only high school in the country that gives an AB degree when you graduate.
There’s no principal, he’s the president of the school. And it had great professors – you called
them professors, not teachers. My English professor in my senior year wanted us to write about
Shakespeare – you know, the stage during Shakespeare’s time, the costumes and so forth. But I
decided, “Hell, I’m going to be much more original than that. I’m going to write a five-act
tragedy, using Shakespeare’s sources but picking a character he had not.” So I went to his source
material – I think it was Plutarch’s Lives – and I found that he had never touched Alexander the
Great. So I wrote a five-act tragedy in Elizabethan English, iambic pentameter, with all the
Shakespearean kinds of rhymed couplets, ghost scenes in the tent, and so forth. It had all of what
Shakespeare puts into his plays, like soliloquies of Alexander as he watches his troops coming
back. But when I submitted this five-act tragedy to my English teacher it came back with a
question mark over my name. Now wait, he said, you didn’t write that. And so I showed him my
sources and everything. Then he gave me an “A”. I’ve had that play all these years but I had
never seen it played until my 70th birthday when my daughters and Sara surprised me by
performing it in our house with each playing different roles, putting on different hats and things
like that. It was fun.
Ms. Hostetler: Do you still write poetry?
Professor Dash: Yes, but I pretty much limit my poetry now for my two daughters
and Sara, on occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
Ms. Hostetler: Have you given any thought to publishing it?
Professor Dash: No, it’s just there. Some of it I think is good. And some of it is
descriptive. During the war, I wrote some kind of dramatic poems, about the roaring of bombers.
I tried to write the poetry with a sound that would reproduce that kind of roaring and all. And I
wrote a fairly long poem about a young Italian boy strumming a guitar, on an ancient wall, in a
city that we were staying near…and it flowed, but I find now that you really have to be brief. You
can’t be too descriptive because the words and the way you put them together have to create the
message and the image.
Ms. Hostetler: Do you write poetry at a certain time, or just when the muse
Professor Dash: Well, since I’m now limiting my poetry to communications to my
daughters and my wife, it’s about a week or so before their birthdays. I’m writing one now, for
Sara, for our wedding anniversary, which is Bastille Day, July 14th.
Ms. Hostetler: When you were growing up did, did your family, your immediate
brothers and sisters and you view yourselves as immigrants or were you so Americanized, that–
Professor Dash: We were born here, we were first generation Americans, and I
never saw myself as an immigrant. I was very patriotic, very romantic, and I saw myself as an
American. I never believed that I would have any restrictions. I bought the American dream.
Ms. Hostetler: And you weren’t treated with discrimination?
Professor Dash: No, I never met, until I graduated from law school, any restriction
because of my religion, and it was then, in 1950, or 1949, that I began to experience the kinds of
discrimination that occurred in law firms at that time.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you apply to some law firms that had restrictions–
Professor Dash: At Harvard Law School I had the highest grades of any student
coming from Pennsylvania, and I think I was in the top bracket of my class, so I was invited to
interviews by law firms. But when I got there, I found out that they didn’t have a Jewish
associate or partner. I remember asking one of the law firms, “Well what’s your policy about
Jewish lawyers?” and he said, “Well, we don’t have a policy. We’ve never had one, but we don’t
discriminate, because we don’t take Negroes or Catholics either.” Isn’t that a great, great,
statement? So, I felt better of course.
Ms. Hostetler: When you were growing up did your family have sufficient income
that you could travel?
Professor Dash: No, they were very poor. My father lost everything when he tried
to compete with his brother in the dry goods business. He went bust. He never was successful
until World War II. We had ups and downs where we bought a car and then lost the car, bought
another car and lost the car. We rented nice houses and lost them – you know, we had to go down
to a poorer house.
My older brother, Harold, and I, from the time I was seven, had to work. We weren’t
working for our allowances, for money for ourselves. We were working to bring income into the
family, and it was our work that produced food on the table. I worked at everything – I was a
carpenter’s helper. I even found out later which I was too young to know at the time that I was a
runner for a gambling group. Harold and I were selling newspapers, and there was a big offer
from a place down near Front Street in Philadelphia, where they were sending what is called
score cards to the saloons. And our job would be to have a route in a certain section of the city
and to distribute every day these score cards. What I didn’t know was that it was the numbers.
Harold then drove a car so we would attach my bicycle to the back of the car. He would drive
me to my section and I then with my bicycle would go into all these saloons delivering the
numbers cards. And Harold would do his on his own and then we would meet and go home
together. Then one day we went down to get our score cards and it was closed. It had been
raided. (laughter) This was an early phase for me. I think I was about nine or ten. I never
understood at that time what had happened because, you know, it was a good job. It paid much
better than delivering newspapers.
I ended up while I was in high school working for the free library of Philadelphia. I’d go
there every night, and the exciting part of the job was that I was working in the newspaper stacks.
In the newspaper stacks at that time, they had volumes of the original newspapers of Philadelphia
back to the early 1700s. I mean these were not on microfilm or anything. This was when you
turned the book open and you would be looking at 1760, and the cartoons of the time. I came to
the conclusion that if you really want to know something about the diet of a period, the dress of a
period, the jokes of a period, a newspaper tells it all. It’s just amazing. You can read all about
the culture of the day in the newspaper.
Most of the times I worked at night and when I didn’t have anybody calling for anything I
read history. I followed Napoleon’s successes and ultimate defeat through the newspapers
printed at the time. And I remember the humor in this. Not having radio or telephone they would
begin a story by saying, “A gentleman off the Frigate James has come to our offices and reported
the latest news from Europe. Napoleon has defeated Wellington and is now victoriously going
on his expeditions.” About a month or so later the paper would report that a gentleman off the
Frigate Smith had come into the offices and said that Wellington beat Napoleon and that is the
end of Napoleon’s career. And then from another gentleman about a month later there would be a
contrary report. Finally, the newspaper printed a box. “Our readers are disturbed and frustrated at
the contradictory reports from gentlemen coming into our harbor on boats. We don’t care
whether Wellington beats Napoleon or Napoleon beats Wellington. We want the truth.” What
history there was to learn from the newspapers that people were reading!
Ms. Hostetler: Any other jobs you can remember?
Professor Dash: My brother and I went into business for ourselves developing film.
I had a cousin who knew something about developing film and printing and he taught us how to
do it. And he built a printer for us. At that time, my father was in wholesale dry goods, and my
mother opened up a little store, for retail, of the same stuff he was selling wholesale. And we put
up a big sign “Film Developing – 24 Hours.” (laughter) We had our printer and our developing
tanks and everything in the basement. I remember it was during the New York World’s Fair in
the midthirties because a lot of the pictures I remember developing were photographs of the
Fair’s tower and globe.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you go to the Fair?
Professor Dash: No. You asked a question earlier about traveling. We really were
so poor that our horizons were as narrow as the street we lived on. The only travel we did was to
go maybe once a summer to Atlantic City, which was the mecca seashore for Philadelphians. I
remember how we went. We didn’t have a car. First of all, we were carrying a lot of things. I
remember we carried a lot of things–blankets, and stuff. And we would stay maybe for two
days. My mother had already arranged something with a woman who had one of these four- or
five-story houses on one of the streets leading up to the boardwalk. And we would carry all the
stuff we were carrying to the streetcar, and then the streetcar would take us to the elevated which
went down Market Street. Then the elevated would take us to Front Street where the ferry was.
Then we would go on the ferry and cross the Delaware to Camden. At that point, there was the
railroad station — the Reading Railroad I think it was – where we then got a train. These were
the true choo-choo trains with billows of smoke coming out of the chimney, and if the windows
are open, you would be getting black all over. And the train took us to Atlantic City.
But then we had a long walk from the train station to the house where we were going to
stay and we were carrying all these bundles. And finally we got there. I remember an older lady
– you know, at that time she looked old, probably she was in her 50’s or even 40’s – carrying
extra bed springs on her back up all these steps to the rooms we were going to use. Of course,
now that I think back about it, it was pretty dingy. The rooms were not air-conditioned and
during the hot summers sweaty as hell. And there was a saloon below us with very loud music
being played and flashy neon lights going off and on. We thought it was paradise, we were at the
But that’s as far as I ever went until I enlisted in the Corps when I became 18. I became
18 in February and I immediately applied.
Ms. Hostetler: So you enlisted even before you went to college?
Professor Dash: No, I had started at Temple University. I had applied to Penn, and I
was admitted at Penn, but again, I had to work. Temple was the poor boy’s school and it was
cheaper. And so, as a poor boy, that’s where I went.
Ms. Hostetler: Did your siblings go to Temple also?
Professor Dash: Raymond did, then went on to another University. Abe went to
Temple. Harold, my older brother, went to Penn, and studied architecture at Penn. But he did
that after he came back from the service. I had one year at Temple before I went into the service.
Ms. Hostetler: And you held jobs during that time also?
Professor Dash: During that time I think I was mostly working at the library. I had a
long-time employment with the Philadelphia Free Library.
Ms. Hostetler: And what kinds of courses were you taking at Temple?
Professor Dash: Oh, I was then in what they call the pre-law/business school. And
most of the courses I was taking were history and political science and social science. But in my
English courses I was writing poetry. I was getting into a period where I was writing complex
poems, sonnets and things, and my English professor was excited about it. He assigned some of
my poetry to the class. I remember once I played a kind of trick on the class (and I think the
English professor was aware of it). I wrote a poem in sonnet form. But every time the word
should have been a simple word I took an obscure, complex word. And so it looked like a very
complex, subtle poem, with in-depth meanings. But in fact it was a nonsense poem. There was
no meaning in it. It was meant to be that. But I remember that the professor asked who do you
think wrote it, and what does it mean? I’d hear all these poets’ names suggested. And I learned at
that time that people don’t want to admit that they can’t decipher something, that they’re
unsophisticated. So everybody had a complex theory for what I was writing and in reality it was
Ms. Hostetler: You say you were in the pre-law program so were you even at that
early age, intending to go on to law school?
Professor Dash: Yes, law attracted me way back. First of all in every public school I
went to, I was very active in the so-called politics of the school. As I said earlier, in Sulzberger
Junior High School I moved up from captain of the Safeties, the law enforcement people, to
becoming president of the student association, I read the Bible, every morning in the auditorium.
And when I went to Central High School, I became the president of the student association by
election, but then, some new organization was formed which was called the interscholastic
league of student associations – all the high schools in the city had an upper student association
league made up of the presidents of their own student associations – and I became president of
And you know this whole process of democratic politics and getting involved in that, led
me to believe that there ought to be a city college in Philadelphia. There was no free college in
Philadelphia. And I formed a committee and we went to see the president of the board of
education, and petitioned and all those things. We were doing all kinds of reform things. So that
whole political area vibrated with me, and I had this other romantic feeling. Coming from a poor
family, and seeing them struggle, and being a romantic from the books I read, I had this kind of
dream, as a teenager, of coming back to this poor neighborhood as a champion. Of course at that
time my dream included armor and a white horse (laughing). To right wrongs, you know. It was a
romantic concept that I had. I haven’t lost much of it yet.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you think of coming back to that same community to right the
wrongs, or of going off somewhere else?
Professor Dash: Well, no, I saw it as coming back there. Growing up, I was
struggling along with the family, and I didn’t stand out until I got these particular positions at
junior high school and high school. Then, at that point, I felt it would be great gratification if I
could come back with power, you know, and right wrongs. But, again, it was localized because I
didn’t know anything about the outside world.
Ms. Hostetler: You were growing up in the 1930s, when Hitler was on the rise in
Europe. How aware were you and your friends, and the people around you in Philadelphia, of
Professor Dash: We were very much so. First of all in high school, we participated
in a series of programs to help the servicemen. I remember we were collecting tin cans, and
stamping them to flatten them out, so they could be carried better, and I was very active in that.
And, as Jews, we were very much angered by the stories we were hearing about the Nazis and
what was happening to Jews. And I guess everybody I knew at the time of my age wanted to get
into the war. This was not an ambiguous war. You could tell the black hats from the white hats.
And I remember that I’d had this yearning to do two things: I wanted to fly (all my earlier years as
an orange crate pilot (laughing). In our family Harold and myself and Abe were visionary
air-people. And I wanted to get into the Air Force. But I also wanted to go in to fight. I wanted
to fight the Nazis.
And so as soon as I turned 18 in 1943, I applied for aviation cadet training. I was turned
down by the Navy – I liked the Navy uniforms better than the Army uniforms – but they turned
me down because they said my eye conversions weren’t right and also my blood pressure was a
little high. But the Air Force wanted me. In fact, the Navy just turned me down but the Air Force
said, “Son, why don’t you just lie on the couch for a little while and we’ll take that blood pressure
again.” (laughter) And it was at just the right level. And so I became an aviation student, and then
an aviation cadet.
Ms. Hostetler: How long was the training?
Professor Dash: I think I graduated from bombardier training somewhere in the fall
of 1944. At that time, you came in as an aviation cadet and got basic training where you learned
all about drill and things of that nature. When you graduated, you were still pre-flight. In my area,
everybody went to Nashville, Tennessee, for classification of whether you were going to train to
be a pilot, a bombardier, or a navigator. I wanted to be a navigator. Somehow that always
intrigued me as a nice romantic thing, to navigate a plane. And so when I got to my classification
officer, and he said, “Well you’ve passed, you can be a pilot, a navigator, or a bombardier. You
have qualifications for all three, what would you want to be?” I said, “I want to be a navigator.”
He said, “Well we’ve got plenty of navigators, we’ve been losing bombardiers over in Europe.”
He said, “We need replacement bombardiers, how about being a bombardier?” And I said, “No
no, I want to be a navigator.” He said, “We really do need bombardiers.” I said, “No, I want to be
a navigator.” He said, “How about the infantry?” I said, “No, I’ll be a bombardier.” (laughing)
And he told me that it was a new program and that the bombardier would get some navigation
training so that he could take over if the navigator was killed or got sick. They called them
And so I went through bombardier school, and I became a very accurate bombardier. We
were using then the famous Norden bomb sight. It’s in the Smithsonian now. It was at a time
when human beings could use weaponry. Today the planes fly so fast it’s done by computers.
The Norden bomb sight is now an ancient weapon. But it was a really good computer. You had
to put in the Norden bomb sight all the details of the altitude, the temperature, and a lot of other
things. And then you had moving cross hairs which you had to stop on the target. And the way it
worked is that when you were playing the game, and it is like a game, you stopped the horizontal
crosshair and the vertical crosshair, so it wouldn’t move once it was on the target. Internally what
was going on is that the bomb sight was flying the plane, directing it over the target, and
determining, at what point in the air the bomb should drop so its trajectory would hit the target.
It was a mathematical determination. And you know it worked automatically, because the bomb
dropped when it should have dropped. And I was accurate enough with that bomb sight that at
20,000 feet, in training, I could hit the center light at the center of the bull’s eye. But in combat
bombardiers couldn’t take the time. You had to take evasive action and go over and quickly set it
up, and often you missed the target. But it really was a great bomb sight.
Ms. Hostetler: Where did this training take place?
Professor Dash: Ellington Field, in Houston. I did my pre-flight training at
Ellington Army Air Force base just outside of Houston, Texas, and what I really came to learn at
that time was how wonderful American families were during that war. Everybody had somebody
who was in the war. It was a war with a mission and everybody loved the military Americans
who were doing this mission. And we received such home hospitality from the families. I mean,
we would be invited every weekend to dinners and we actually got to know a number of the
families. In fact, only recently I got a letter from somebody who’s now in her seventies, who was
a young woman at the time, who invited us to her parents’ home. We’d met her at the USO or
something and she invited us to her parents’ for dinner and then she took us to see some of the
historical things like the Alamo. And I remember I gave her a record of some classical music, I
think. And she recently wrote me, I guess because of some of the notoriety I’ve gotten. She said,
“I bet you don’t remember me. I’m white-haired and seventy-ish now, but I remember that
summer when you were a young aviation cadet.” You know, it was kind of nice, that
recollection. I can say nothing negative about my service. I was 18. You had to be 18 to enjoy
But then I had to go through gunnery school and I remember it was in Laredo,Texas. The
bombardier is the gunnery officer on the plane. Then it was on B-24’s. I never thought of myself
as mechanical. I never thought I could do anything with my hands. But the training program of
the Air Corps at that time was so excellent. They used all kinds of simulation, and all kinds of–
well, it was something like television where they took you through it. As a gunnery student I had
to learn how to detail strip a caliber 50 machine gun, which has hundreds of parts, wearing heavy
gloves and using only a nail for a tool. And the reason was that when you’re up at 20,000 feet,
and the temperature outside the plane is minus 40, if you touch metal, you’ll leave your fingers
with it. And so that’s how we had to do it. And I did it very successfully. I tore it apart, and put
it back together again. Then we went to a malfunction range. And there were ten guns, each
with a different malfunction built in. And we had to shoot them and as they stopped, we had to
identify by what was sticking up, or why it stopped at that point, what the specific malfunction
was. And I passed that test. We had to learn how to shoot from all the different turrets on the
plane, and they began by saying you’re very lucky young men. You’re going to be playing a
millionaire’s sport. And what it was is that they put us on the back of a moving truck, and we
were shooting skeet. (laughter) And then they put two skeet shotguns on the turret, and we were
on the back of the truck, and we were moving quickly to shoot the skeet. It was fun! You know,
I had a great time.
Ms. Hostetler: Did the war end before you actually had to go overseas?
Professor Dash: No, I graduated, became a second lieutenant, and then had to go to
bombardier crew training. My crew got our B-24. That was in Lincoln, Nebraska. And I
remember when I got my first bombardier crew training we were using a real B-24 now, and
maneuvering around and learning how to work together. But before I was to go over, they gave
us a 30-day leave. And so I went home, then to Atlantic City with my family, and I got a terrible
sunburn on my foot with a big blister. So I went to the local Air Corps headquarters and a flight
sergeant looked at it and said, “Son you can’t go back to the base. I’m going to put you on sick
call at your home.” And the blister stayed there for a few weeks! By the time I got back, my first
crew had gone over. In fact, they went over to the 8 Air Force in England, and were in the th
Battle of the Bulge and a number of them were killed. So I had to go through re-training again,
with a new crew. And then we flew our B-24 over to Italy.
Ms. Hostetler: Where in Italy?
Professor Dash: Actually, we landed in Goia del Col. I’d never heard of it before.
It’s a little ancient walled town. And then we went up above Fogia to do some training missions.
We would fly over areas and pick out our targets. It turned out that a lot of the training missions
were over actual battles on the ground. And the Air Force had a policy that if you flew over a
battle, you get the battle ribbon – even though you didn’t fight. So I collected a number of battle
ribbons with Bronze Stars because of this. I was still waiting to go over and bomb the Germans
when I was brought into the commanding headquarters and told that the 376 Bomb Group, the
famous bomb group that bombed Ploesti, had lost a lot of bombardiers. What the Germans were
doing was going after the bombardiers. The whole bombing flight depended on the Norden
bomb sight and the bombardier. You would have one bombardier in the entire squadron, and his
was the lead plane. When his bomb door opened, and the bombs went, gunners in the following
planes would hit their toggle switches to hit the same target. They’re following the bombardier.
And so if the Germans could come in and shoot head-on, there would be no gun facing them.
B-17’s had a forward gun, but the B-24’s didn’t. And so the Germans would come in and shoot
the bombardier out of the B-24 plane, and that would ruin the bombing mission.
So they needed new bombardiers and they said I was being shipped down to them, the
376 Bomb Group. I said, “Well great, it’s a great group.” When I joined them, this was already a
famous group. They later received the Presidential Citation and two oak leaf clusters, and I got
them too. So I have the European service ribbons, with five bronze stars, I have the Presidential
Citation with oak-leaf clusters, having done nothing (laughing) except, you know, be there at the
time. In fact, I’d hardly unpacked at the 376th Bomb Group when one of the commanding
officers said, “Don’t unpack, you’re going home.” I said, “What do you mean I’m going home, I
just got here.” (I had been in Italy about two weeks.) “Oh,” he said, “this unit has been here for
four years, and we’re going to go back to the States to re-train for the new B-29’s.”
So I joined this very victorious veteran group of airmen on the U.S.S. West Point, which
was a luxury ship. I think it had been used before as a cruise ship, and it had wonderful quarters,
and ice cream all the time, and steak dinners. And when we got to Newport News, there were
bands out there, welcoming these victorious veterans. Of course they asked me, “Well, how long
were you over?” I would start out saying, “Well, two weeks,” and they said, “Well, come on
now, don’t be so modest,” So, you know, then I just didn’t talk about it. And we got big steak
dinners at Norfolk, and then they gave us a 30-day rehabilitation leave, I hadn’t even been in
Europe 30 days.
Then I was supposed to go to Nebraska to be reassigned to B-29 training but by that time
the war in Japan was improving, and they soon decided they didn’t need us. I had spent maybe a
month or two at this base in Nebraska. I had a bombardier friend who lived in Chicago, which
wasn’t that far away. We took the train to Chicago, and I stayed with his family. We left word
with the rest of the guys to call us as soon as we got orders. And we got orders, but the orders
were they didn’t need us in B-29’s, and my particular assignment now was to go to Kirkland
Army Air Corps base in New Mexico to be a bombardier trainer. New Mexico is such a
gorgeous place–the Rockies rimmed our field. And I stayed there until they decided we were too
expensive. Air Force people got extra flight pay. And so I was one of the first ones ushered out
of the service.
Ms. Hostetler: But now you’d seen the world certainly.
Professor Dash: Oh yeah. I remember when we were first flying to Europe we
landed at Marrakesh, Morocco, I think it was. And I saw my first camel, and my first palm tree.
What a scene it was. And I saw Tunisia, I saw Italy. I was writing poems about it, and I was also
writing home about this great adventure, what the world is like. Always very enthusiastic I was.
Everything was new and fresh and exciting.
Ms. Hostetler: You never published those poems?
Professor Dash: No, no, but I’ve got them all. I still have them in a book.
Ms. Hostetler: And you probably lost friends in the war?
Professor Dash: Not really. Sara lost a boyfriend who went over to the Pacific and
was one of those that MacArthur didn’t get back to save, but I didn’t know anybody who was
killed in the war. Also in the Air Corps, you’re above it alI. I think when you served in the
infantry you would know a number of people, but we were above it all. And I never got a chance
to get into actual combat. I was told that some of the people in the first crew I trained with died,
but I didn’t know them that well because I hadn’t spend that much time with them. And only
recently – it’s because they read my name in the newspapers – my former co-pilot, of the second
group that I went over to Europe with, and a couple of others, have written to me, and I’ve written
Ms. Hostetler: Were you immediately dismissed from the Army when the war was
Professor Dash: Well, even before the war was finally over. The first people who
were sent discharge papers were the Air Corps pilots and bombardiers because they were the
most expensive people there. And so I was discharged when they knew it was all coming to an
end. I got out in 1944.
Ms. Hostetler: So you were about 20 then?
Professor Dash: I was 19, I think, when I got out, close to 20.
There’s two things that happened when I came back from Italy. First, there was this grand
veteran’s group, and I was welcomed as a hero. Then I was given a 30-day rehabilitation leave.
That’s when I went to Atlantic City, and met Sara, or re-met Sara, and I asked her to wait for me.
There are a couple things that I recall. Not only did I fall in love with her right away – it was a
Saturday that we went out dancing – but also the following day, which was a Sunday, we went to
a very famous delicatessen near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, for Sunday brunch. I’m a deli
addict–my favorite food is lox, and smoked whitefish, and Greek olives and all that – that’s
heaven. And so I ordered it for both of us. And Sara ate this food with such relish, even
humming as she was eating, that I thought I could sit across the table from this lady for the rest of
my life. (laughing) I mean, there was a real spark there, over the lox. And that’s when I asked her
to wait for me. Then I left and was assigned to the bombardier training for the B-29 in Nebraska.
I wrote to her regularly, and asked her to wait for me. She was actually semi-engaged to a
captain in the infantry – uh, but I wooed her away from the captain.
Ms. Hostetler: With the poetry?
Professor Dash: I guess. I was only a second lieutenant. (laughing)
Ms. Hostetler: Well now, how soon after you were discharged did you get
Professor Dash: We were engaged in ‘45, and not having any money I gave her my
Central High School ring as our engagement ring. She knew about my love for Central High
School and what it meant to me – if you ever meet Central graduates anywhere in the world,
there is that kind of special connection. I was just honored by the alumni of Central High
School, and given this Central High School Alumni watch. I spoke about Watergate to a group of
them – they’re now judges, and ministers and chemists, and they come from all over to reminisce
and support the school. Sara kept that Central High ring for years, until it was stolen during a
burglary at our house. And you know, other valuables were stolen, but this was the most valuable
thing taken, although it was worth nothing, really.
So, we were engaged. We decided to wait a year. And on July 14th, 1946, a year after
we first met, or re-met, we got married in Philadelphia. It was right at the time when I was
finishing up at Temple and applying to law schools. It’s an interesting story. I, again with a poor
boy’s mentality and attitude, wanted to go to law school, but I never thought I would have the
luxury to go to day law school. As a matter of fact, the tradition at that time for somebody like
me was that you became a teacher in the public schools, to earn some sort of a living, and you
went to law school at night. When you got your law degree, then you could be a lawyer.
Ms. Hostetler: Were you eligible for the GI Bill?
Professor Dash: Yes, I used it at Temple, and I also used it at Harvard, but I did not
have enough to pay for all three years at Harvard.
Ms. Hostetler: So that must have made a big difference to you, to have that help?
Professor Dash: Oh, yes. But Sara had to continue to work. She was in training as a
social worker in a Jewish organization that brought over refugees from the Holocaust. They were
coming out of concentration camps, and her job was to find relatives here who could serve as
sponsors to bring them over here. Then she would do an investigative job to find the relatives
and you know, of course, names were changed and everything. When she found relatives she
helped them become affiants assuring that the refugees would not become charges on the
country. Then she would go to the boat coming over with the refugees so that she could meet
them and take them to their relatives. And some of the times I would go to the boat with her.
She was a very busy young woman, wearing a beanie cap, and carrying a briefcase. She was also
very active in Israeli culture at that time, including Zionist dancing and music, and she had
groups she trained. I would go to the groups with her and watch her. So I got very much
indoctrinated on Zionism, on Israel at that time because none of that had been….
Ms. Hostetler: A part of your family?
Professor Dash: No. Sara comes from a very traditional Jewish family. Her mother
is fourth or fifth generation from Jerusalem. She has lots of family in Jerusalem, and most of
them are rabbis, and great teachers. And the story behind that is, her father’s father lived in
Philadelphia when he immigrated to the United States with his wife. He had five children
including Sara’s mother. And when some of the grandfather’s children came of marriage age, her
grandfather came to the conclusion that none of his children should marry American Jewish
gentiles. I mean American Jews were gentiles, as he saw it. So he took everybody, lock, stock
and barrel over to Jerusalem. And with a marriage broker, connected them to the most religious
and famous families–famous not for money but for their integrity, their education, their being
rabbis, and so forth. And so all of his children were married off that way. And Sara’s mother
was married to her father that way. And, it’s a famous family–her mother was a Charlop, which
was a famous Jewish family in Palestine. And there’s a Lenor Charlop Street in Jerusulem just
next to the Hebrew University, which is named after her family.
So they were a traditional family, and Sara very early on was active in Jewish activities
and Jewish schools. But I just grew up knowing I was a Jew, knowing the culture, some history,
and loving Jewish foods. I mean to me, Judaism was eating lox, and things of that nature. That to
me was my identity with Judaism.
Ms. Hostetler: You celebrated the holy days?
Professor Dash: Well, yes, the holy days, the main days, but we didn’t belong to a
synagogue, although I did go to Hebrew school and learned to read Hebrew. So it was really
through Sara that I developed a greater identity with Judaism. And later in Philadelphia, after
Sara and I were married, I was on the board of trustees of the Germantown Jewish Community
Center. I became the regional chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia. And
then I went on the national board. I was very active in B’nai Brith. I would do a lot of speaking
when I was district attorney in Philadelphia, and even before that, to Jewish audiences. And
much of that was to tell Jewish audiences that it was important for the Jewish community to be
very supportive of the American constitutional system because it was that constitutional system
that permitted them to live as Jews freely. And I said it also was important to support civil rights
for Black people, who we then called Negroes. I had early on gotten involved in a number of
reform activities involving civil rights around the time of the marches down in the South. While
I was the regional chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, most of our programs were directed
at non-discrimination on the basis of race. And the Jewish community in Philadelphia at that
time was angry at us. They were paying their dues as members of the B’nai Brith or
Anti-Defamation League and they were saying, “Why are we spending all this money on the
Negroes? Why don’t we spend it on the Jews?” And I would make these speeches all over in
which I would say, “Thank God the Jews are pretty well-off right now. But the lesson in history
is that that doesn’t always have to be. And so long as there is any group that’s being
discriminated against and persecuted, we’re next. And therefore even if you don’t want to do it
out of the tender humaneness of your heart, which basically is what we should be doing,
self-protection should direct you to protecting them.” I tried to make a practical argument that
would appeal to them.
Ms. Hostetler: Why don’t we return to when you were going to law school?
Professor Dash: Oh yes, we were talking about my going to law school. I was
saying that my idea of going to law school was that I’d work daytime as a teacher and go to a
local law school at night. And Sara said, “Well that’s silly. Look at all the time you’d be wasting.
I have a good job. I think it would be wasteful for you to go to night law school. What’s the best
law school in the country?” I said, “Harvard.” “You’ll go to Harvard,” she said. “Me, go to
Harvard?”, I asked. Well, I applied. And that’s an interesting story. I was an all-A student and
had first honors in the pre-law curriculum at Temple. Professor Ernest Brown, during that
summer of 1947, was Acting Admissions Dean of Harvard, and after I applied I got a letter back
from him saying, “We have your application and all your grades, and they’re outstanding. But
we’ve never had a Temple graduate at Harvard Law School. So we don’t know what your A’s
mean and, therefore, you’ll have to take the Graduate Record Examination.” At that time law
schools didn’t have the LSAT’s, so it was on the basis of the records students made at Columbia
or other schools that Harvard had had some experience with that Harvard decided whether or not
they would make it through Harvard Law School. But the next graduate record examination I
could take would be too late, and I’d lose a year at Harvard Law School. So Sara and I sat down
together and we wrote a letter to Harvard. First of all I went back to Temple, to the dean of the
business school and to the president of the university, and showed them Professor Brown’s letter
and said, “You’ve got to back me up.”
Ms. Hostetler: Did you know the president of the university?
Professor Dash: No, I just made an appointment to see him. And I got a kind of
response saying, “Well, you know, maybe they don’t want people like you.” I don’t know
whether he was talking about non-wealthy persons or Jews, or what, but they had no confidence
in themselves at Temple even to want to back me and show that Temple is worthy of being
treated well by Harvard. So that’s why Sara and I sat down and we wrote a letter. I had done a
little research on some of the achievements of Temple graduates to show that my ‘A’s’ do mean
‘A’s’, and I pointed out how unfair it would be to make me wait to take the graduate record exam
and lose a year, and especially since I’m a veteran, and a married man and all that. So, about two
weeks later comes Brown’s letter back saying that they didn’t mean to demean Temple, my grades
are excellent, they’re really thinking of me; there were 100 applicants for every seat at Harvard
Law School – all from recognized universities. He said that if I didn’t make it at Harvard, no
other law school would accept me since no school wants to say that it has a lower standard than
Harvard’s. But, he went on, that since I had persuaded them that I shouldn’t lose a year they had
now found a place for me in the entering class. Boom! (laughing). And so we went to Harvard.
And I enjoyed every minute of it.
Ms. Hostetler: Did you ever see Professor Brown after that?
Professor Dash: Oh yes. Sara likes to tell this story. In my first year, I was writing
for the Harvard Law School Record, the student newspaper, and there was a little cocktail party
that the Record gave. Ernie Brown was there and somebody introduced me to Ernie Brown,
saying, “Do you know Sam Dash?” and Brown said, according to Sara’s recollection, “Sam
Dash? How could I ever forget that name? That was the summer I was teaching, acting dean, and
a million other things, and here comes this litigating letter, from Philadelphia.” He said, turning
to me, “You know why you were admitted to Harvard Law School? Because it was easier to
admit you than explain why we shouldn’t!” (laughing) But the interesting thing is I received
honors in the first, second and third years, I was awarded partial scholarships because of my
achievements in my second and third years. But because they and my GI bill were not sufficient,
Sara had to work while still going to school herself, to make ends meet. The next Temple
graduate who came in with good grades got in. It was, you know, the priming of the pump.
Ms. Hostetler: I assume there were a number of veterans in your class?
Professor Dash: Oh we were practically all veterans. Dean Griswold called us the
“unusually mature” class. We were, by the way, the first full-time class after the war. During the
war, law school was expedited because there were summer courses and students finished in two
years–or a year and a half. But we were the first full three-year program graduates since the war.
And a lot of us were married. Many of us had been in battles in the war. We were much more
serious about what we were doing.
Ms. Hostetler: Who were some of the members of your class that you can recall?
Professor Dash: Well, Richard Kleindienst, for one. I disqualified myself during
the Watergate investigation from questioning him on that ground. Also, Ted Stevens, who’s now
a Senator from Alaska, was in my class and Senator Chaffee from Rhode Island. And Judge
Hoeveler of Miami who tried the Noriega case. There was also McKusick, Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court of Maine. It was a remarkable class, in which practically everybody in that class
carved a niche for themselves and excelled in it. The earlier class reunions, as you probably
know, are very difficult for some, if they haven’t made it yet. It’s hard to be around others who
are boasting about what they have done, but there came a time – I think at our 25th reunion –
where most of us had done pretty well and so we were relaxed and no one was trying to best the
Ms. Hostetler: Was there a spirit of competition when you were at Harvard Law
Professor Dash: Very much so. It wasn’t the days when you were told, as I read
about it, “Look to your left, and look to your right, one of you won’t be here at graduation,” where
they were flunking out a third of the class. They had improved their acceptance selection process,
even without the LSAT. So it was pretty much that if you were admitted to Harvard Law School,
you would graduate. And the only people who fell out were self-selected–that is, they left
voluntarily. They didn’t fail. Nevertheless, it was highly competitive with everyone trying to
push up to the highest echelon and to be on the Law Review. We had a particularly large group
from New York, out of the New York City schools, who were as competitive as they could
possibly be. And so much so, that if a professor put a reading assignment on the board, one of
these competitors would remove it from the board so only he would have the assignment, and
nobody else would see it. I mean, it was that dog-eat-dog type of thing. And you know, I came
from a school, Temple, where I got A’s. But, in those days, you got A’s by memorizing your
notes, and giving the professor back what the professor said. You didn’t have to analyze, you
didn’t have to think, and I had never really had to tax my brain to analyze and think. Harvard
Law School was the very first time I had to do that. It was exciting – it just opened my mind.
Ms. Hostetler: Who were some of the professors you remember?
Professor Dash: Oh, Archibald Cox, who was my labor professor, and Paul Freund,
who taught constitutional law, and the dean, Erwin Griswold, who was my tax professor. I had
James Casner for property and Leach. I even had Prosser who came in as a visiting professor and
taught us torts. (We were very excited to get the horse’s mouth on torts, but it was boring as hell.
He read from his book – didn’t even look up at us.) (laughing) Also Soia Mentchikoff was a
visiting professor. At that time she had just finished doing the ALI Uniform Commerical Code
and we were the first class she taught the new code to. It was an exciting time for me. First of
all, as an educational experience, it was an awakening and I was challenged. But everything just
so opened things to me, and I saw so many different possibilities, that every day was exciting.
Each law school class was frightening at times, but exciting. And while a lot of my fellow
classmates hated it, I was having a ball.
Ms. Hostetler: Do you think you were in the minority in really enjoying Harvard
Professor Dash: I don’t know if I was in the minority. The class was probably
divided 50/50. But I just thought law school was the best thing in the world in terms of the
issues, the subject matter, the promise, and, again I had retained idealism, I had retained the
concept of being the champion of the poor, and it was all of this that brought me into the area of
Ms. Hostetler: Which we’ll get to in our next session. What professors if, any, did
you maintain contact with after law school?
Professor Dash: Well Dean Griswold, mostly through Sara. Griswold at the time I
was there was at the height of his deanship. He was the dean in America. And he had a very
brusque manner, even insulting at times. He had no time for small talk. And nobody talked back
to him. In fact, everybody was in fear of him. I was at a party once of one of the student groups,
the Harvard Law Record which I was writing for, and he said in Sara’s presence, the Law School
Record was a waste of a law student’s time. And Sara said to him, “How can you say that–these
guys work hard – it’s been so interesting to Sam, and he’s able to write about things that the
student body and the faculty likes to read about. That’s not a nice thing you said.” He became a
loyal friend of hers – probably because nobody ever talked back to him. So after I graduated and
we’d go to American Law Institute meetings, he would leave a group of prestigious lawyers and
professors to come up to talk to Sara and ask if he could dance with her. (laughing) But he
would still be very gruff to me, and say insulting things like, “Well, what are you failing at now?”
But…his birthday was the same day as our wedding anniversary, Bastille Day, so we would
exchange greetings – and he and his wife Harriet and we ended up being very good friends.
And Griswold had become very interested in the work I was doing as D.A. in Philadelphia. He
once sent me a beautiful letter when I was criticized in an editorial for being too fair. I had
written the paper back after the editorial reporting on our good conviction record and how being
fair hadn’t prevented me from being tough. I had sent the letter up to Professor Cavers at the law
school – Cavers was a close friend, and a wonderful professor. And Cavers gave it to the dean.
Then Griswold wrote me and said, “You really answered that paper well. I’m proud of you.”
And the other thing that put me close to him was that I had co-founded the Harvard Law School
Voluntary Defenders program.
Ms. Hostetler: How did you happen to found the Defender program?
Professor Dash: Well after I received my first year grades, I was invited to join the
law school’s Legal Aid Bureau. I didn’t make Law Review but it was the next rung down. That
is, Legal Aid was an honor group and admission was based on grades.
Ms. Hostetler: Didn’t it actually provide some legal aid help though?
Professor Dash: Oh yes, it was an official legal aid program. The Massachusetts
legislature, and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts had enacted a student practice rule
for, and only for, the Legal Aid program of Harvard Law School. And so, when you joined the
Legal Aid you were actually representing clients assigned to the program who were too poor to
afford a lawyer. So I was working on domestic relations cases and landlord-tenant cases. And I
was in court, I was presenting evidence, I was arguing. And I was winning many of the cases.
And I remember I won a domestic relations case, and the lawyer begged me and the judge to not
let it be known publicly that I was a law student because his client would never understand his
paying a nice fee and losing to a law student. But while I was doing that civil legal aid work, I
had developed a tremendous interest in criminal justice. Professor Sheldon Glueck was my
criminal law professor, and then I became his research assistant. He was more a criminologist
than a criminal law professor, and he and his wife, Eleanor, did great research in juvenile
delinquency. It was the criminal law that I was always most interested in but I was in the wrong
place at that time because Harvard Law School provided very little criminal law teaching. There
was no criminal procedure course. It had Sheldon Gleuck’s course but that was essentially a
Ms. Hostetler: Do you think it was working for the Gleucks that really stimulated
Professor Dash: No, I think I went to work for the Gluecks because I already had
the interest in advance. I remember that even in my first year I was raising questions asking how
the teaching would apply in a criminal case or something like that. In fact, the professors every
once in a while would say, “Now let’s here from our criminal lawyer Sam Dash.”
When I joined the legal aid program I learned that legal aid provided representation only
in civil cases. I spoke to my classmate Don Paradis, who was the president of Legal Aid and we
went to see Wilbur Hollingsworth, who was then the voluntary defender for the city of Boston.
And we found out that he was overloaded – his case load was huge, and he had a very small staff
and few resources in terms of financing. And because of this, he couldn’t be a real lawyer to a
defendant by investigating and researching the defendant’s case with the result that in eighty to
ninety percent of his cases he pleaded them guilty on a plea bargain deal. You know he plea
bargained for a lesser sentence. So we asked him if he would be willing to accept some Harvard
Law students, if we could find them, who would be willing to do the investigating – to go out
and question witnesses – and also to do research and write trial memos which would give his
staff lawyers the option to try some of these cases and really represent the defendants. Well, of
course, he was just delighted to have Harvard law students working for his office so he said,
“Yes, if you can get the dean to do it.” So we went to see Griswold.
Griswold had been my tax professor, and I had gotten an A from him. But at that point I
had never had any real personal contact with him. But Paradis and I went to him and said,
“We’re on Legal Aid, but the school is deficient in providing legal services to the poor in criminal
cases. We’re not suggesting a student practice rule at this time, or that we would do the same
things we do for Legal Aid, but the voluntary defender, Wilbur Hollingsworth, is so strapped that
all he’s doing is pleading people guilty, and we’re not sure they all are. There may be some
people in that group who are innocent, and who are being filed away into prisons.” We went on,
“We think it would be good for Harvard to supply interested students to him, so that they can do
the leg work and research work.” Griswold said, “Well, it’s a great idea.” And we said another
thing. We said, “But we don’t want this to be an honor group. The only students who ought to do
this are those really interested in criminal law, because if it’s an honor group, they may agree to
accept the invitation just so they can have it on their résumé, but they won’t really have a heart
and soul in it.” Griswold said, “Well, I’d go along with that…but since it’s not to be an honor
group, I want the Legal Aid program to supervise it at first because you legal aid students are
bright students and you should supervise it.”
Paradis appointed me president of the new Harvard student defender program. Griswold
gave me ten dollars with which I bought a bulletin board and some stationary. I put the bulletin
board up in the hall with an invitation to students to sign on, and I got something like ten
students. And so we began the Harvard volunteer defenders. We’d meet in empty classrooms.
What would happen is that Wilbur Hollingsworth would send us the names of his new clients,
and we would send Harvard Law students to the jail to interview them and get their stories and
the names of witnesses. Then we went out and interviewed the witnesses, and then knowing what
the case was about, and what the evidence might be, we prepared research memos and trial
One case got a nice headline and has become a Harvard Law School legend. This was a
murder case. We found the gun that had allegedly been used to kill the victim but we found that
it couldn’t be traced to the person who was accused – in fact the ballistics were all wrong. And
the accused was serving life in prison at the time. As a result of our findings, the governor of
Massachusetts commuted the sentence, and he was freed from jail. And this was just our tenacity
as law students, finding the gun, establishing something that the voluntary defenders of Boston
would never have had the time to do. It proved also that this was a good program to have at the
law school. It taught students some of the practical workings of the practice of law, which
Harvard at that time was not much interested in. And this is one of my biggest complaints about
the law school. We were building this program, and by the time I graduated it was an ongoing
program with a number of students wanting to be a part of it, but I couldn’t get the law school to
treat it as part of the curriculum so that students working in the program would get any credit
hours. It was considered like an after school club.
Ms. Hostetler: Did students get credit for legal aid work?
Professor Dash: We didn’t get credit for legal aid work either. But legal aid had
faculty supervision. There was no faculty supervision for the defender program. I think we
students did the work energetically and enthusiastically, but as ignorant as hell as to what a
lawyer does. And you know they were doing some good work, but nobody was really giving
them professional supervision. Since that time, the defenders did get a student practice rule and
today they not only have offices, with computers and everything, but they also go to court.
Ms. Hostetler: And do they now have faculty supervision?
Professor Dash: Some. Professor Ogletree, a very fine professor, gives them some
faculty supervision but it still has not become a clinic, as we have at Georgetown Law School.
We have a criminal justice clinic where they do the same things that they do at Harvard, but they
get nine hours’ credit. It’s part of our legal curriculum, it’s part of our legal education. And they
still haven’t done that at Harvard.
Ms. Hostetler: How atypical is the Georgetown experience in law school today?
Professor Dash: It’s not so atypical. More and more law schools – NYU for
instance – have great clinical programs. The Georgetown Law Center is number one in clinical
programs – we’ve been doing it the longest – and clinical education has become the third-year
alternative for more textbooks and more classes. And it transforms the students because in every
law school, by the third year students are bored, and they just want to get out, but most of our
third-year students join clinics. And we have a smorgasbord of clinics in addition to our criminal
law clinic that cover many areas such as domestic relations, juvenile court, tax law, and securities
law. And we have an appellate litigation clinic where students argue before the appeals courts
here. The students suddenly come alive again, and they put in more time than the credit hours
they get, but they’re thrilled that they’re working with clients, they’re working with real courts,
they’re working with real opposing lawyers. And a lot of ethical considerations are woven into
this as they pertain to the real practice of law. I don’t think there’s another law school in the
country that has anything like it. And Harvard is trailing, quite behind. When I went to Harvard
Law School, the premise was that they were educators who teach theory, conceptual matters, but
that the practice of law is for the practice bar. They told students, “You’ll learn that when you
leave–we’re not a trade school.” That was the attitude. But I think not to integrate into law
school course work some practice skills was a mistake on Harvard’s part.
Ms. Hostetler: You mentioned that there was only one course in criminal law at
Harvard when you were there?
Professor Dash: That’s all–it was taught by Livingston Hall but his course was not
a thorough course like others were. And there was also Sheldon Glueck’s course which was
basically a criminology course.
Ms. Hostetler: So there wasn’t much thought that Harvard law graduates would
become criminal lawyers?
Professor Dash: It wasn’t even on the horizon. Harvard Law School trained you for
commercial, corporate careers, not for criminal law.