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MSU College of Law



June 29, 2011


MSU Law Professor Emeritus Harold Norris Receives New State Bar Legacy Award

East Lansing, MI — The State Bar of Michigan has named Michigan State University College of Law Professor Emeritus Harold Norris as the recipient of its inaugural John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award. The new award will be presented periodically to a law school professor whose influence on Michigan lawyers has elevated the quality of legal practice in the state.

Professor Norris taught Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Women and the Law to more than 5,000 students during his 35 years as a faculty member at Detroit College of Law (now MSU College of Law). A widely published author and poet, he is widely known for “The Liberty Bell,” a poem about the rights of man reverberating from the cracked bell; the piece hangs in the lobby of the home of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

Professor Norris, who helped draft the Bill of Rights of the Michigan Constitution, vigorously fought against racial discrimination in Detroit—his hometown—during the turbulent 1960s. He considered his 1991 book Education for Popular Sovereignty through Implementing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights the “capstone” of his career.

Upon Norris’s retirement in 1996, he was celebrated by former students and colleagues as “the conscience” of the college, “a champion of . . . the administration of justice,” and a “beacon” of the “cherished philosophy of individual liberties.”

In 2010, generous funding from the MSU College of Law Foundation enabled the Law College to create a number of honors aimed at recognizing current faculty for outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service while paying tribute to important figures in the school’s history. One of the awards is named for Professor Norris, who was honored for his significant influence as a respected teacher, scholar, and mentor at the Law College.

“Professor Norris made a difference,” said Brian Kalt, the Harold Norris Faculty Scholar at MSU Law. “To him, the law is not just a set of abstractions to occupy people in ivory towers. In his view—and in his hands—the law was a tool to achieve justice for regular citizens, against abusive government practices. Best of all, for decades he conveyed this vision of the law to his students; my father was one of them, and I grew up hearing Harold Norris stories.”

Professor Norris earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Michigan in 1939 and 1941, respectively, and received his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University in 1948. He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wayne State University in 1981, and a Doctor of Laws degree from the Law College in 1989.

The Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award will be presented to Professor Norris at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting Awards Banquet on Wednesday, September 14. The banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn.

Michigan State University College of Law, a leading institution of legal education with a long history of educating practice-ready attorneys, prepares future lawyers to use ethics, ambition, and intellect to solve the world’s problems. As one of only a few private law schools affiliated with a major research university, MSU Law offers comprehensive interdisciplinary opportunities combined with a personalized legal education. After 100 years as a private and independent institution, the affiliation with MSU has put the Law College on an upward trajectory of national and international reputation and reach. MSU Law professors are gifted teachers and distinguished scholars, its curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and its facility is equipped with the latest resources—all affirming MSU Law’s commitment to educating 21st-century lawyers.


320 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

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