Twelve inductees share diverse accomplishments.
March 28, 2013
Marian Mayer Berkett was one of the earliest women students at Tulane Law School. She graduated first in her class in 1937 and was the first woman attorney hired by a Louisiana law firm.
Yet these "firsts" are not what Berkett remembers most about Tulane. Her fondest remembrances are of her classmates who stimulated her intellectually and never begrudged her success.
"They never once made me feel feminine – as a woman – or resented me because I was No. 1 in the class. They didn't make me feel different, and that was quite unusual for that time,” said Berkett, who recently retired from Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles in New Orleans where she got her start.
Berkett was one of 12 alumni and distinguished faculty inducted into Tulane Law School's new Hall of Fame on Friday (March 22) at the annual Alumni Luncheon. The six living and six posthumous honorees in the inaugural class represent the diverse accomplishments of Tulane Law alumni over its 166-year history, said Dean David Meyer.
"The Tulane Law School Hall of Fame enables us to celebrate these rich talents by highlighting each year the exemplary achievements of a select group that reflects the whole," said Dean Meyer.
The Hall of Fame was created with an endowed gift to the law school from Lake Charles lawyer and Tulane Law alumnus Mike Veron (A&S '72, L '74) and his wife, Melinda. More than 250 alumni attended this year's luncheon to applaud the inductees.
Berkett, who turns 100 years old on March 29, led a remarkable career highlighted by her success as a trial lawyer at a time when few women in the United States were arguing cases in courtrooms.
A native of Baton Rouge, Berkett received her bachelor's and master's degrees at Louisiana State University, where she wrote a master's thesis that eventually became a published book, Workman's Compensation Law in Louisiana. Berkett attended law school at LSU, where she was a vocal critic of Governor Huey Long's administration on campus, but one of only a few.
Feeling uncomfortable and isolated in Baton Rouge, she transferred to Tulane, where she co-founded the People's League with her classmates, including future U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, and began rabble-rousing in New Orleans in opposition to Long's political machine.
"She went on to have an enormous impact in the city fighting for clean government and becoming one of the legendary lawyers of her time, not only in New Orleans but in the American South,” Dean Meyer said.
Hale Boggs (A&S '35, L '37): Elected to 13 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hale Boggs became the majority whip in 1962 and majority leader in 1971. A powerful advocate and gifted orator, Boggs supported landmark civil rights legislation in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
John J. Hainkel, Jr. (A&S '59, L '61): After graduating Order of the Coif and serving as a member of both Tulane Law Review and the moot court board, John Hainkel went on to become an accomplished trial and appellate lawyer who made American political history as the first to serve as both speaker of the house and president of the senate in a state legislature. In his 37 years in office, Senator Hainkel was a revered leader who fostered collaboration across party lines and was a powerful advocate for higher education.
Russ M. Herman (A&S '63, L '66): As a founding partner of Herman, Herman & Katz in New Orleans, Russ Herman is recognized as one of the nation's leading trial lawyers, having served as lead counsel in many of the country's most significant, high-profile class actions. A veteran faculty member in Tulane Law's trial advocacy program and the author of a leading treatise in the field, Herman has also served as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Joseph Merrick Jones (A&S '25, L '25): During the Great Depression, Joseph Jones founded both the Canal Barge Company and the law firm now known as Jones Walker, one of the largest and most respected firms in the South. Jones took a hiatus from practicing law during World War II to join the U.S. Department of State, serving as assistant secretary of state for public affairs during the post-war period. Devoted to Tulane, Jones served as president of the Board of Administrators for more than a decade until his death in 1963. Jones Hall, the law school's former building, is named in his honor.
Wayne J. Lee (A&S '71, L '74): After graduating Order of the Coif and serving as an editor of Tulane Law Review, Wayne Lee is now one of New Orleans' leading litigators, chairing the management committee of Stone, Pigman, Walther & Wittmann. A past president of the Louisiana State Bar Association and numerous civic and charitable organizations, Lee has also served as a member of Tulane's Board of Administrators and played a leading role in efforts to diversify the legal profession.
Bessie Margolin (NC '29, L '30): Raised in Jewish Children's Home in New Orleans after her mother's early death, Bessie Margolin graduated from Newcomb College and was second in her law school class and an editor of Tulane Law Review. As a woman, she was unable to find work in private practice and went to work for the federal government in Washington, D.C. An associate solicitor for the U.S. Department of Labor, she argued 27 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and won 25 of them. At her retirement dinner in 1972, Margolin was feted by Chief Justice Earl Warren and several other justices for her landmark contributions to labor law.
Max Nathan (L '60): As a founding partner of Sessions, Fishman, Nathan & Israel in New Orleans, Max Nathan is recognized as one of the country's leading lawyers in estate planning and successions, and has led law reform in the state as president and chair of the Louisiana Law Institute for more than 15 years. A legendary teacher to generations of Tulane students, Professor Nathan has taught as a member of Tulane's adjunct faculty for nearly 50 years.
Ferdinand Stone: A six-time graduate of Ohio State, Yale and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Ferd Stone was a member of Tulane's law faculty for 41 years before retiring in 1978 as the W.R. Irby Chair. Director of the Tulane Institute of Comparative Law, Professor Stone was a renowned scholar in the field and a legendary teacher of torts to generations of Tulane law students.
Jacques L. Wiener, Jr. (A&S '56, L '61): After graduating first in his class and serving as editor-in-chief of Tulane Law Review, Judge Wiener practiced law in Shreveport with the firm Wiener, Weiss & Madison. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Wiener took senior status on the court in 2010. A devoted Tulanian, Judge Wiener is a former chair of the Dean's Advisory Board and a member of the Paul Tulane Society.
John Giffen Weinmann (A&S '50, L '52): After graduating Order of the Coif and serving as an editor of Tulane Law Review, John Weinmann practiced law for 28 years with Phelps Dunbar in New Orleans and served as general counsel to the Times-Picayune and president and director of the Waverly and Eason Oil Companies. He served as U.S. ambassador to Finland from 1989 to 1991 and as chief of protocol in the White House from 1991 to 1993. Ambassador Weinmann is a former chair of Tulane University's Board of Administrators and a member of the Paul Tulane Society. Weinmann Hall, the Law School's building, is named in his honor.
John Minor Wisdom (L '29): A legendary judge for more than four decades on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Wisdom was one of the so-called "Fifth Circuit Four" who played a pivotal role in enforcing the civil rights of racial minorities during the era of "massive resistance” to desegregation. A top student who won Tulane's moot court competition, Judge Wisdom practiced law for nearly 30 years in New Orleans before his appointment to the bench. During that time, he was an adjunct professor at Tulane Law School for nearly two decades and, as a Republican Party leader in Louisiana, played a crucial role in securing the election of President Dwight Eisenhower. Judge Wisdom's donated papers and effects are displayed in the Judge John Minor Wisdom Room of the Law Library.
Michael Joe is a writer in the Office of Development.
At 100 years old, alumna Marian Mayer Berkett has a long legacy in the Louisiana legal community. (Photos by Rusty Costanza)