GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Francis A. Allen, a leading legal educator and thinker, died April 6, 2007 at North Florida Regional Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. Allen taught criminal law for more than 40 years and was a principal architect of the provision of legal counsel to indigent defendants, both through his scholarly writings and his chairmanship of the Attorney General’s Commission on Poverty and the Administration of Federal Criminal Justice, which led to the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 and the Bail Reform Act of 1966.
An authority on both criminal law and juvenile delinquency, Allen helped write the Model Penal Code of the American Law Institute and was theprincipal architect of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961, which among other things decriminalized sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex.
As a scholar, Allen focused on the punishment of offenders and the workings of agencies such as police, prosecutors and penal institutions, examining these in the light of constitutional law and fundamental legal principles of fairness, an approach that established a new agenda for legal research. He also upheld legal education as a humanistic discipline, showing how, in Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes’ words, the law was “a path to the world.”
According to fellow University of Florida law professor and close friend, Jerold H. Israel, “Frank was undoubtedly one of the foremost scholars of his generation, but he was much more–a wonderful colleague and a wise and generous mentor to many, including myself. His move to Florida was a major event in the development of our faculty, and attracted national attention. Perhaps the most prominent features of Frank’s writings, teaching and his everyday conversations were the thoughtful character of his analysis and his articulateness.”
Allen began teaching at the University of Florida in 1986 as the newly appointed Huber C. Hurst Eminent Scholar after retiring from University of Michigan as Edson R. Sunderland Professor Emeritus. Allen remained an emeritus professor even after he ceased teaching in 1994.
“My father enjoyed his time at Florida, first of all, because it gave him an opportunity to continue doing what he loved most–teaching law and showing students how the law can be a satisfying, lifelong intellectual pursuit. He also took great pleasure in interacting with the faculty, particularly young scholars whom he was able to counsel and assist in the early stages of their careers,” said his son, Neil Allen.
Allen wrote numerous articles and reviews and delivered guest lectures at many law schools. Allen’s books include The Borderland of Criminal Justice, The Crimes of Politics (originally delivered as the Holmes Lectures at Harvard), Law, Intellect and Education, The Decline of the Rehabilitative Ideal (Storrs Lectures, Yale), and Habits of Legality (Cooley Lectures, Michigan).
The son of a Methodist minister, Allen was born in Kansas City, Kan., in 1919. After high school in Aurora, Ill., he was educated at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and Northwestern University law school. Upon graduation from law school in 1946, Allen served as clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson. After leaving the court, he became a member of the law faculties of Northwestern (1948-1953), Harvard (1953-1956), the University of Chicago (1956-1962 and 1963-1966) and the University of Michigan (1962-3 and 1966-1986), serving as dean of the Michigan law school from 1966-1971. He was elected President of the Association of American Law Schools in 1976.
Allen was a visiting professor at Northwestern, Boston College and the University of Chicago, a scholar in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, twice was in residence at the Salzburg Seminar of American Studies, and was a visiting expert at UNAFEI, a United Nations agency concerned with the problems of criminal corrections, located in Japan.
Allen was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1971 and 1973. He received honorary degrees from Cornell College, the University of Victoria (British Columbia) and the University of Chicago, and received the Fellows Research Award of the American Bar Foundation. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1975.
Allen served in the United States Army Air Corps as a weatherman in WWII. He married June Walsh in 1947. She survives him, as do his brother William, sister Olive Thompson, son Neil, daughter-in law Roberta Allen, and grandchildren Jessica and Mark.
A service to celebrate his life will be held Friday, April 20 at noon in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom the University of Florida Levin College of Law. A reception with June Allen and other members of the Allen family will follow.
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