I think we all had that one law professor who motivated us. And every law school has the one law professor who is the subject of great stories, stories that get bigger and better as time goes on. For me and my law school, that professor was George Cochran, and he died this morning.
George was assigned to be my advisor. I went to his office to ask about assignments before classes started. I don’t remember his answer, but I know it involved cursing, so much that I started to re-think this law school plan. When I turned in my first project, he threw it back at me and said that I was smarter than that and could do better. A life changing moment. I was smarter than that; I could do better. And I did.
In George’s constitutional law class, we had to memorize case names, dates, and holdings. I remember that it was about 2000 cases, but that is probably high. My love of index cards started with that class. Anyway, half of the points on the exam came from those memorized cases – name the case from the holding, or summarize the holding from the case name. To this day, I can give you the name of a case on almost any constitutional issue. It’s been quite a few years since I memorized those cases, but I have a starting point for any constitutional law research.
John Grisham graduated from Ole Miss a year before I started, and George was his professor, too. You may think that John made up those descriptions of the quirky law professors, but, no, they are all George. He chewed rubber bands when he was trying to quit smoking. His shirt tail was never tucked in. As you read stories about George in the media in the next few days, you will read about the trash can. I was there. Back in the days when people smoked in classes, George put his cigarettes out by mashing them against the edge of the nearest trash can. One cigarette started smoldering. Without stopping his lecture, George took the trash can and put it outside in the hall. The trash can was not flaming, but someone did call the fire department. We just continued learning constitutional law.
Thanks George. I can do better and I will.