Newton D. Baker Scrapbooks

The 27 volumes of newspaper clippings documenting the life of Newton D. Baker Jr., 1894L, and donated to the Powell Archives in 2015 by the law firm BakerHostetler, are now available in Scholarly Commons, the law school’s digital repository.

Below, page from 1912 scrapbook in Baker’s first year as Mayor of Cleveland.

Baker came to Washington and Lee School of Law after graduating from Johns Hopkins University. He practiced law in his home town of Martinsburg, West Virginia and then Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland became his life-long home where served as assistant law director, city solicitor and Mayor (1912-1916.) President Woodrow Wilson named him Secretary of War, an office he held during and immediately after World War I.

Though there was much more to his life after this — prominence in Ohio and then national Democratic party politics, founder of the law firm today know as BakerHosteler, champion of the League of Nations, etc. — it is these years in public service in Cleveland and Washington, DC that are documented in these scrapbooks.

The research value of the Secretary of War years, where he built an army of 2 million men in a matter of weeks, is obvious. The clippings from the Cleveland public office years, however, are rich as well. Baker was a progressive who believed in the ability of municipal government to make city life safer, healthier and richer for its citizens. In reading these news reports, one can see Baker inventing policies and programs in response to the growing pains of this vibrant early twentieth century city.

Above, Newton D. Baker in 1929. Ethel Standiford Collection, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

Before Lewis F. Powell Jr. was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States, Baker and famed Supreme Court advocate, John W. Davis, were considered the most eminent alumni of the law school. When the dormitories, spoken of today in the one term “Baker-Davis,” were built in their honor, they were the law school dorms.

Updates to Case Files For Two Important Powell Opinions

New versions of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.’s case files for Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc. and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke are now available. The new Gertz file is in color and is of much better resolution. Some newly discover documents have been added to Bakke. These include 1978 memoranda from June 17 and 21; additions to the “Subject Files”; and some new draft opinions from Justices Brennan, Marshall and White.

The Fresh Prince of W&L Law

Above, Prince Dimitri George Sidamon-Eristoff as a second year law student at Washington and Lee University in 1924. On the right is the registration information from Sidamon-Eristoff’s first year of law school.


The year 1922 brought royalty to the Washington and Lee University School of Law student body in the person of Georgian Prince Dimitri Sidamon-Eristoff. Charles Moser, who was United States Consul to several countries, including Georgia, and who had “special detail” at Constantinople, arranged for visas for 3 Georgian princes (Simon, Dimitri, and Pierre) to travel to the US in 1921.  Moser would also provide passage for Dimitri’s sister Xenia and her mother to come the US.  Moser married Xenia in 1923. Moser already owned a house in Lexington, and they lived there. He suggested to Dimitri that he study law at W&L.  Dimitri had extensive law training in St. Petersburg and spoke English well.

A “Russian Student Fund” (RSF) was set up by several wealthy Americans and the Russian Provisional Government’s Ambassador to the US, Bakhmeteff, to help White Russian emigres get a quality education with an eye toward creating better US-Russian relations if the Bolsheviks regime would collapse.  The RSF encouraged a number of United States universities and colleges to offer scholarships to the most promising emigres, supplemented by funds from the RSF.  Dimitri and Simon, (and perhaps Pierre as well) were among the first recipients of those scholarships.

Sidamon-Eristoff was a member of Phi Beta Kappa when he graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1925. On February 20, 1926, he delivered an address in New York City to the American Foreign Law Association on the workings of Soviet law. It was published as Principles of  Russian Soviet Law.

He practiced law for many years in Brooklyn, NY. On his death, his son George (B.A. Washington and Lee 1953) wrote, ‘I regret to inform you that “The Prince,” known as “The Iron Man” to some, passed away Oct. 22nd, 1969. He had a long and good life. And while every man has his regrets, he, perhaps, had fewer than most.’

For details of the remarkable story of Eristoff’s life before he came to the United States, see Doug Harwood’s story on page 50 of the April 2019 edition of his monthly newspaper, The Rockbridge Advocate.
Thanks to Richard Bidlack, Martin and Brooke Stein Professor of History at W&L, for bringing Sidamon-Eristoff to my attention and providing biographical information. Special thanks to Jane Smith of University Development and Lisa McCown of Leyburn Library Special Collections.

John O. Marsh, Law Class of 1951 – Great American Military Statesman

John Otho Marsh Jr. died earlier this month at age 92. His life in service to his country has few equals. It includes Army service with post-World War II occupation forces; Army Reserve service in Vietnam (while serving in the U. S. Congress!); presidential adviser, in which capacity he was called “the president’s conscience;” longest serving Army Secretary; and the list continues. (See details in the University’s obituary  or any of the many newspaper obits like this one in the Washington Post.)

One could be excused for assuming that Jack Marsh was an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute. He came to love and serve VMI so much, that he was one of the very few to be named an Honorary Cadet. He taught there as a Visiting Professor of Ethics. He obtained special permission to be buried in its Hall of Valor, adjacent to the  New Market Battlefield where VMI students fought and died during the Civil War. His papers will pass to the VMI Archives. Above all, his life was lived in the mold of VMI’s most famous alumnus, the great soldier-statesman, George C. Marshall, whose namesake medal is among Marsh’s many awards.

In fact, Marsh’s unusual higher education journey brought him to our law school. He was born in Winchester, Virgina in 1926 and, his public service years aside, lived there, in Harrisonburg or elsewhere in the Shenandoah Valley. He joined the U.S. Army in 1944, just after graduation from Harrisonburg High School. By age 19, he was an Officer Candidate School graduate.

Above, Washington and Lee University School of Law Class of August 1951. Marsh is sixth from left, in front of white door.


On leaving the Army in 1947, he used his GI Bill benefit to enter Washington and Lee University as an undergraduate. With some credits earned at Madison College, getting PE credits from his time in military service, and after three semesters and one summer session as a student in the college, he took up the study of law.

At that time, the educational requirement for admission to the W&L School of Law was two years of college. He took advantage of this, entered the law school, and graduated with the law class of 1951 in August at the end of the law summer session. He began the practice of law immediately and continued in that profession until his first election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1963.

Wherever his strongest academic institutional affections laid, we are proud to claim him as an alumnus of the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Washington and Lee University Registrar, Scott Dittman, provided invaluable assistance for this post.

A Life In Archives

We in the Powell Archives know about life with collections of personal papers from a curatorial point of view. Lyndon Baines Johnson biographer Robert Caro, however, has written a fascinating piece in The New Yorker about spending a good part of his professional life as a researcher in the Johnson papers.

(Pictured above, the archives stacks of in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.)

Set Your VCR, We’re Going Back in Time

Back to 1984, to be exact. For on this day in that year, the Supreme Court announced the decision in Sony Corp. of America vs. Universal City Studios, Inc. (also referred to as the “Betamax Case”). As television critic and historian, David Bianculli summarized it on his TVWW blog, the decision “stemmed from a 1976 lawsuit filed by Universal Studios and the Walt Disney Company against Sony, developers of the Betamax video tape recording device. The companies argued that Sony’s development of a product that could be used for copyright infringement made them liable for any infringement committed by the product’s users. Sony asserted that consumers had the right to record programs for private use, citing the use of cassette tapes for recording music as a precedence.”

“The initial case was argued in California’s District Court, which in 1979 ruled in favor of Sony. In 1981, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision. In 1983, the case made its way to the Supreme Court.

By the time the case was argued in the Supreme Court, video recording technology had expanded with the introduction of a competing video recording format, VHS. The 5-4 ruling reversed the appellate court ruling.”

For an inside look at the formulation of the opinion in this case, see Justice Lewis F. Powell’s case file.

President George H. W. Bush and Justice Powell

Lewis F. Powell Jr. apparently first met George H. W. Bush around 1974. That is when they began a correspondence that discussed domestic and world politics. National Security was a topic important to both of them, and that is borne out in their letters. They wrote of family and friends, as well.

They and their spouses remained friends after Bush became Vice President and President of the United States. They exchanged Christmas Cards. Even after Powell retired from the Supreme Court, the families stayed in touch through events like a 1991 visit to Camp David by the Supreme Court Justices, which included Retired Justices.

These two important figures of the last part of the 20th century shared a world view and a sense of America’s place in it. They also shared a sense of the importance of  family, the significance of public service, and the primacy of country over party or self interest.

New Look, Same Content

After a lengthy delay, the Powell Archives website has joined the Law Library and the Law School as a whole in migrating to the Ingeniux content management system. There are still links to reestablish and other cleanup to be done, but rest assured that returning users will find all of their favored content here.

Supreme Court Case files and other materials may initially appear to be different, as they are now residing in our Scholarly Commons digital repository. Please inform us of any problems you may have in using this service.

110th Anniversary of the Birth of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.

Lewis F. Powell Jr. is justifiably identified with Richmond, Virginia. Aside from his U.S. Army service in World War II and his time on the Supreme Court of the United States, he spent his entire life there — with the exception of his first two months of life. As you can read in the clipping below, an accident of family history resulted in his birthplace actually being Suffolk, Virginia.

SuffolkNews-HeraldPowellBirthIn a short time, however, he was ensconced in the house (see below) in the Forest Hill  district of Richmond that would be his home until leaving for college.

PowellForestHillHomeAt any event, he appeared to have been a happy baby.