Complement to a Public Order of Human Dignity for All 1

James L. Robertson

Article by James L. Robertson Featured Author


Let’s begin this one with Sagittarians. Myres S. McDougal and my mother, Susie Mae Lawton, were each Sagittarians–McDougal born in late November 1906, and Lawton on December 11, 1906. 2

Fast forward to a Monday in 1980. I had been invited to address a class at the Yale University Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. Approximately halfway through my exposition lecture, I noticed a seemingly familiar portrait on the wall in the lectern room. I continued, but I recall that I could not take my eyes off that portrait.

Twas Myres Smith McDougal, whom I understood to be a retired faculty member at Yale Law School. I was well aware that McDougal was a native of northeast Mississippi who had made quite a name for himself in legal academia.

When my duties in the lecture hall had been completed, I asked my host if he knew whether Prof. McDougal still resided in the New Haven area. Soon word had been fetched that retired Prof. McDougal most certainly did continue to live in the New Haven area. Indeed, he was residing in a facility east of the University, where he was recovering from what has been commonly called “the old man’s fall.”

My wife Linda, who had accompanied me to New Haven, and I were quickly transported to the recovery facility. We found retired Prof. McDougal as we had been told. After introductions and brief fumbling conversations, Prof. McDougal came to realize that I was the son of Susie Mae Lawton (Robertson), who had been his fellow Sagittarian in their birth year of 1906.

I realized that the retired and injured (from the fall) Prof. McDougal longed for one last trip to Mississippi, and that, as a practical matter, it would be up to me to make it happen.

And so, it was done. The aging McDougal offered remarks at a most impressive occasion at the University of Mississippi Law School. His remarks can be found in Vol. 66, Mississippi Law Journal 9 (1966). Foremost at the McDougal event was Byron S. (Whizzer) White, then an active and serving Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. 3

One of the great souls of Northeast Mississippi was given his due.

Prof. McDougal’s career achievements became widely known. Most prominent was McDougal’s works with his longtime colleague, Harold D. Lasswell. Two of many such prominent publications were: McDougal and Lasswell, Jurisprudence in Policy-Oriented Perspective, University of Florida Law Review Vol. 19 (1966–67), a 33-page effort that meticulously explained the nature of law. A similar and more complex publication was The Intelligence Functions and World Public Order, pp. 365–448 (1973). Prof. McDougal added great weight to legal learning, available to all, and for all time. 4

Approximately a year after his final trip to Mississippi, Prof. McDougal died at the age of 86 – a noble life with many worthy missions accomplished.

  1. See CABA Article, A Public Order of Human Dignity for All, posted March 2020.
  2. Greek Club in University of Mississippi Yearbook, p. 196.
  3. Justice Byron S. White,” 1 Miss. Law Journal 1-7 (1996).
  4. See Eugene V. Rostow’s work, 84 Yale L.J. 704 (1974-75); and Prof. W. Michael Reisman’s, Theory About Law: Jurisprudence for a Free Society, 108 Yale L.J. 935 (1998-1999).