Briefing Room
James Meeks


College mourns loss of former Dean Meeks

November 7, 2017 | Faculty

Professor Emeritus James E. Meeks, former dean and Jacob E. Davis Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, passed away on October 26, 2017. He was 78.

Meeks joined Moritz in 1978 as dean, a position he held for seven years until 1985 before returning to teaching. His courses and scholarship examined antitrust law, torts, legal writing, law and economics, and public utilities.

A nationally-recognized expert in utilities and antitrust issues, and yet notoriously humble in his accomplishments, Meeks was beloved and admired for his sense of humor, integrity, and commitment to bolstering junior faculty at the college. He was similarly renowned among his students for his radiant warmth and uncanny ability to stoke critical thinking in the classroom. Meeks forged lasting, significant bonds with many of his students, so much so that he received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Class of 2004. He also played a role in launching the college’s Dispute Resolution Program and the Journal on Dispute Resolution as well.

In 1983, Meeks spent two weeks in a coma—and 10 weeks total in the hospital—following a near-fatal car accident with his wife, Priscilla. Although Meeks recovered without any memory of what happened, he remained undeterred; he used the traumatic experience to teach his torts students how to effectively work with clients who similarly lost memories of their accidents.

Meeks was devoted to the prosperity of Ohio State’s community as a whole, having served as special assistant for legal affairs for two university presidents from 1988 to 1991, and as special assistant for research integrity for the vice president for research. In 1985 he investigated institutional protocols following several deaths at The Ohio State University Medical Center (now the The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center). Years later, former physician Michael Swango was ultimately found guilty for a string of homicides he committed in hospitals throughout the United States and in Africa. Meeks retired in 2005 after serving the college and the greater university community for 28 years.

Meeks graduated from Oberlin College in 1960 and Columbia Law School in 1963, where he was editor of the Columbia Law Review. He spent a year clerking for Judge Carl McGowan of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before joining the faculty at the University of Iowa Law School in 1964. He taught torts, family law, and antitrust law from 1964 to 1978 and served as associate dean from 1973 to 1976. He was also a visiting professor at a number of law schools across the country including Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, the University of Kansas School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law, and Boston University School of Law.

Meeks’ devotion to the greater good of the college was steadfast, and his legacy continues in the countless students, faculty, and fellow deans who sought and respected his counsel. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Priscilla; children, Kathryn Sorrells (Brett) and Jeffrey Meeks (Cecelia); grandchildren, Cedar and Buck Sorrells, and Sam and Tucker Meeks; sisters, Betty (Wayne) Spangler and Nancy Wardlow; sister in law, Christine Lohr; and many nieces and nephews.

Memories and Remembrances

Professor Peter Shane, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

In addition to his many accomplishments, Jim Meeks was a person of uncommon modesty and unfailing grace. His enthusiasm and support not only for his contemporaries, but also for newcomers to the Ohio State community helped set a tone of collegiality all too rare even in the academic world. He will be greatly missed.

Professor Deborah Merritt, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Jim was a wonderful, kind man who always had a smile for everyone. He was one of my father’s first—and most outstanding—students at Columbia Law School, so I felt a special bond when I met Jim many years later on the Moritz faculty. He and Priscilla were so hospitable to me and my family throughout our years here. My heart now goes out to Priscilla and all of the members of the Meeks family. Jim leaves a special legacy for all of us.

Professor Nancy Rogers, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Jim Meeks set a high standard for future deans. People trusted his integrity and dedication. They were confident that Jim had the right aims for the college and university. They recognized how bright he was, despite his humble ways. It was not surprising that the university called on Jim after his deanship to set up what became a university counsel’s office and later asked him to head an independent inquiry on a controversial matter. Jim’s students were grateful for his teaching and support. Ever constructive and kind in his approach, Jim often offered straight-spoken private advice. I will be ever grateful for Jim’s counsel, his example, and the opportunities he created.

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