HomeAlumni NewsOctober 14, 2014

October 14, 2014

The college community further learned the sad news that William “Bill” Allen DS’42 died in Washington D.C. on October 11. Details can be found at today’s notice in the New York Times. He is one of the presumably rare members of any class to get elected as labor commissioner and, years later, serve as chairman of the board of trustees during an eight year term. He also returned to the College several times to teach a course on Constitutional Law – and join many a late-night chat with students in the Boarding House.

Born in 1926 in Palo Alto, Calif., Bill Allen left Deep Springs after two years to attend Stanford in 1944 but was drafted into the Army in 1945 where he served in the Korean occupation forces and attained the rank of staff sergeant. He returned to Stanford in 1946 and graduated in 1948. He reported for the Associated Press for the next five years, working in Fresno, Calif., and then as a legislative correspondent in Sacramento. In 1953 he entered Stanford Law School where he was president of the law review. Graduating in 1956, he served during the 1956-57 Supreme Court term as the chief law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren.

In 1957 he joined the Washington law firm of Covington and Burling, where he charted a wide-ranging practice in appellate litigation and administrative law over a career spanning 45 years. He led the Judicial Review Committee on the Administrative Conference of the United States, a public-private board that is the chief policy-writing arm of the administrative part of the federal court system. He also served in the early 1980s as the chairman of the Administrative Law Section of the A.B.A. He led a number of the firm’s groundbreaking pro bono matters, including the first open housing act to be enacted south of the Mason-Dixon Line; it was for many years the model for any such act in the South. In the 1980s his pro bono work centered on death penalty cases, including several appeals to the Supreme Court; he argued four cases before the Court. He also taught administrative law at Stanford Law School, Cornell Law School, and Howard Law School. Following his death, a spokesman for his firm–with reference to his pro bono activities–credited Allen with a deep commitment to public service and, in the opinion of his colleagues, with “legendary” qualities of creativity and decency.

Allen was an avid track and field fan, demonstrated by his attending six Summer Olympics. He and his late wife, the former Joan Webster Emmett, were active in Arlington County Democratic politics for many years. He leaves three sons, Edwin, Neal, and Kent, and eight grandchildren.