Undergraduate Years and Marriage
My undergraduate years (1948-1952) were primarily devoted to social development. As a freshman, I learned how to hold my beer while drinking with war veterans. I also, as my roommate Sterling Steves put it, “crashed and burned” over a pretty girl whose company I craved. She was not alone in finding my companionship unwelcome. My state of mind is revealed by the fact that I flunked the required course in physical education every semester for two years because I did not attend frequently enough, and had to make it up in my senior year.
I did grow into a sort of leadership role in the fraternity, and was so successful as a rush captain in the fall of 1950 that I was elected to membership in the Texas Cowboys, which was a very high honor indeed for one who had been regarded as a hopeless nerd only two years earlier. But I was much troubled by the Korean War and shortly after my initiation as a Cowboy, I dropped out and volunteered for naval flight training. But I flunked the second physical, it being observed that my respiratory capacity was insufficient. So I returned to college. I did find in the spring of 1951 that I was less scorned by girls than I had been. And in summer school (making up for the dropped semester), I finally got my act together academically. My career as a Cowboy is depicted in a story I wrote for Alibi, Give Your Best to Texas.
In September, I met Bessie Meek. By Christmas, we were engaged. All has been smooth sailing since, except for the loss of a grandchild in 2002. Fortunately, law school admission standards were far from being what they became and I was admitted everywhere I applied: Columbia, Harvard, Michigan and Yale. By 1967, my credentials would have been scorned by all of those schools. We married on August 2, 1952 and went off to Cambridge.
Bessie, who is also a native of Texas and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University, worked as a bookkeeper at Radcliff College while I was a law student. She later became a professional librarian, serving chiefly at the Detroit Public Library and the Perkins Library, and as an editor of the premier reference book on reference books. She has taught in the professional schools at the Universities of Michigan and North Carolina. In 2003, she was honored by the Durham Public Library and the Durham Literacy Council, two organizations she has served. I was invited to speak about her and you can see what I said. Remarks at a Garden Party The dedication of my 1998 book says it all: "For Bessie. My Partner in a More Perfect Union, Who Insures Domestic Tranquility, Promotes the General Welfare, and Secures Blessings to Our Posterity."