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In Memoriam: Alumnus and former law professor Walter Wadlington (L'54)

June 12, 2019 11:30 AM

Walter Wadlington (L'54), a former Tulane law professor who went on to become a trailblazer in family law as well as medical law, died last month at the age of 88. (Photo: Tom Cogill, courtesy of UVA Law)


Walter Wadlington, a Tulane Law graduate and former professor who went on to become a giant in the field of family and medical law, passed away last month at the age of 88.

Wadlington (L’54) attended Duke University (BA) and Tulane Law (where he was editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review and Order of the Coif) before serving in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. After a few years of practicing law, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he discovered a passion for teaching.

He returned to Tulane Law, teaching for two years before moving to the University of Virginia in 1962. He taught at UVA for four decades in the areas of family law, juvenile law, law and medicine and medical malpractice, eventually teaching through the university’s medical school. He retired as a Professor Emeritus in 2002.

 “As a family law scholar myself, I knew of Walter Wadlington’s towering reputation and landmark contributions in the field long before I moved to Tulane,” said Law Dean David Meyer. “I also remember vividly just how proud I was after coming to Tulane to learn that he was a Tulane Law alumnus and had begun his academic career as a member of the Tulane Law faculty.”

As revered for his personal kindness, generosity and infinite patience as he was for his professional pedigree and impact, Wadlington was remembered at UVA as a powerhouse in law.

Calling him a “pioneer in curricular innovation,” UVA Prof. Richard Bonnie said Wadlington’s mentorship inspired him to go into teaching.

“He was a mentor and inspiration to me and to several generations of students who followed in his footsteps and became law teachers,” Bonnie told UVA’s online magazine.” It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we are Walter’s disciples, especially in the effort to import psychology and other behavioral sciences into the study of law and to stimulate interdisciplinary teaching.”

Meyer said Wadlington’s impact on families and children, as well as health law, would be felt for generations to come.

“He also had a special legacy at Tulane Law School,” Meyer said, “as a student and a faculty member, and the entire Tulane family feels his loss.”