Archive for Monday, April 23, 2001

Retired lawyer, KU professor dies

Paul E. Wilson warmly remembered

April 23, 2001


A former Kansas University law professor who died Sunday will always be remembered for being on the losing side in the famous school desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education.

But Paul E. Wilson, 87, also will be remembered for many of his other interests and characteristics, those who knew him said.

Among them were his concern that criminal suspects have adequate legal representation; his interest in history and writing; and his congenial personality, friends said.

"He was very outgoing and had a pleasant personality," said Francis Heller, a retired KU law professor who had an office adjoining Wilson's.

"He was an extraordinary man," said Georgann Eglinski, assistant to the law school dean. "He was intelligent, witty and a wonderful writer."

Eglinski worked with Wilson in preparing a book of his essays and speeches published last year called "Musings of a Smiling Bull." The title was taken from an award that Wilson received from the Leavenworth Bar Assn., she said.

"He had a grace and clarity to his writing," Eglinski said. "He wrote a lot about Kansas history."

Wilson died at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Heller also knew Wilson when Wilson was an assistant attorney general for Kansas in the 1950s. Anyone who needed to deal with the attorney general's office usually had to talk with Wilson, Heller said.

"He enjoyed a very good reputation with the lawyers in the state of Kansas," he said.

In the 1954 case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., Wilson was sent by the attorney general to represent the state's interest before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wilson wrote about his experiences in handling the Brown case in a 1995 book, "A Time to Lose." He said that he did not argue that Kansas law was right or just, only that it was constitutional.

In 1965 Wilson founded a clinic that what would later bear his name, the Paul E. Wilson Defender Project. Through the defender project, law students in their second and third years provide legal assistance to federal and state prison inmates.

Wilson was Shelley Clark's criminal law professor when she was a student in 1976. Now associate dean of the law school, Clark recalled how he helped her find her first job. She noted that he also wrote the statute on historic preservation and spurred her interest in the same area. She now teaches history preservation at the law school.

Wilson's daughter, Eileen Wilson, said her father often talked about his experiences with his family at home.

"He shared a little of that with us and he explained it in a way that we could understand," she said. "We were very proud of him."

Wilson is survived by his wife, Harriet Wilson, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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