Howard Williams, Stanford Law School professor emeritus, passed away on April 14, 2010, at the age of 94. The first Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, and prior to that the first Stella W. and Ira S. Lillick Professor of Law, Williams was a member of the Stanford Law faculty for more than 40 years. Well known as one of the nation’s leading experts on oil and gas law and on the regulation and licensing of natural resources, he authored more than 30 articles and nine books—most notably the treatise Oil and Gas Law and the casebook Cases on Oil and Gas Law, both written with former Dean Charles J. Meyers. He served at the appointment of Governor Reagan on the California Law Revision Commission and subsequently as chief judge of the Stanford Judicial Council during the height of student unrest in the late 1960s. In 1994, Williams—along with Meyers and Richard Maxwell from Duke University School of Law—jointly became the first recipients of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation’s Clyde O. Martz Teaching Award in recognition of the landmark law school casebook; groundbreaking accomplishments and distinguished contributions to the fields of oil and gas, mineral, and natural resources law; and their celebrated careers as teachers.
“In addition to being one of the country’s leading scholars in the important and highly complex field of oil and gas law, Howard was also probably the most unfailingly considerate and courteous member of the faculty for over 40 years. It is an uncommon combination of qualities, not easily replaced,” says Kenneth E. Scott ’56, Ralph M. Parsons Professor of Law and Business, Emeritus.
William Cohen, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Emeritus, and his wife, Nancy Cohen ’75, herself a former student of Williams, remembered him as both “knowledgeable, kind, and humorous” as a professor and the best man at their own wedding. “And,” they add, “best man accurately depicts all facets of this wonderful man—a trusted colleague, wonderful dinner partner, faculty lunch cohort, and professor.”
“By the time he arrived at Stanford, Howard was a seasoned academic,” says John Henry Merryman, Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and Marie B. Sweitzer Professor of Law, Emeritus. “His years at Texas and Columbia had given him a healthy antipathy to faculty meetings and committee assignments. He had acquired, and occasionally shared with us, a memorable fund of anecdotes about deans. In his relations with them, and with the rest of us, Howard was always a perfect Texas gentleman.”
Before joining the Stanford Law faculty in 1963, Williams was a professor of law at Columbia Law School and the University of Texas School of Law. He served in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1946, where he rose to the rank of major. He received a BA from the University of Washington and a JD from Columbia. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1940 with honors, he was an associate at the New York City law firm of Root, Clark, Buckner & Ballantine, working under then partner and future Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan. Williams is survived by his son, Frederick Thompson Williams ’75 (MA ’76); his granddaughter, Elisha Aulean Williams Perez; and two great-granddaughters, Grace and Luisa Perez.