Cindy Kelly: Okay. I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and it is Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. I have with me Abe Krash. First thing I want to do is ask him to say and then spell his full name.
Abe Krash: Abe Krash, A-b-e K-r-a-s-h.
Kelly: Thank you. You’ve had some very interesting experiences in your life.
Kelly: A long and illustrious career as a lawyer. But what we want to focus on just to start is your years during World War II, when you were a student at the University of Chicago. Maybe you want to tell people a little bit about where you were born and how you got to Chicago.
Krash: All right. I think that’s a good place to begin. Well, I came to the college at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1944. I was 17 years old. The war was, of course, still on. I had grown up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had an uncle who had been at the university years before. My high school principal said, “Go east, young man.” So I came to the University of Chicago.
Shortly after I came there, a few weeks after I came, I went over to the offices of the student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, which were then located in a pre-fab building back of what’s now the president’s house. I applied to be a reporter and I was immediately taken on.
I had a rather unusual journalistic experience. What happened was, first of all, I was the editor of the high school student newspaper, The Lariat. But, more significantly, there was a morning newspaper in Cheyenne called The Wyoming Eagle, and when I was about in the tenth grade, I began to write some stories about the high school teams for the paper.
When I was in the eleventh grade, the sports editor went off to the war. I became the sports editor when I was in the eleventh grade, and I came to the newspaper office every day and wrote articles, had a column and began to learn something about the newspaper.
So, by the time I came to The Maroon, for a young fellow of 17, I had quite a bit of background in journalism. In any event, I became a reporter for The Maroon, which was a weekly paper. In the winter of 1945, the editor of the newspaper left, probably, I think, to go off to the war, and there was an election for a new editor and I was elected. I was only a freshman, but you have to understand it was the wartime and so many of the older people were gone. But, in any event, I was elected editor of The Maroon.
Shortly after I became the editor, I decided I wanted to have profiles written about various distinguished faculty members. The Maroon was a weekly paper and we would have each week a profile of a different distinguished member of the faculty. Sometime early in April of 1945, I asked one of the reporters for the paper, “Look, let’s do a profile, an article about Arthur Holly Compton.” C-o-m-p-t-o-n. Compton was the Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago. He’d also won the Nobel Prize in Physics, I believe, in the 1920s. Unbeknownst to me, he was the director of the Manhattan Project at Chicago. I didn’t know that.
When I became the editor of the paper, I was told by a man by the name of [William V.] Morgenstern, who was the Director of Public Relations, a very fine person. He said to me, “Look, don’t write any articles about things going on in several of the buildings at the university.” He identified those buildings. You could see military guards were in front of those buildings. All he told me, as I recall, was that there was some type of government research, military research going on, but he didn’t describe it more than that. But, he just said, “Don’t write anything about those.” I faithfully obeyed that injunction.
In any event, the reporter wrote this article about Arthur Compton, which appeared – the paper came out on a Friday. We had an editor’s meeting on Saturday morning to prepare for the following week’s edition. I came to the office there on Saturday morning and in mid-morning, I received a phone call. The person at the other end identified himself either as Captain or Major so-and-so, he said, from military intelligence. He said he had a problem. He wanted to come and see me. I thought it was a gag from one of my friends at the university resident halls.
But, in any event, about an hour later, two guys show up and they pull out from their pocket identification and sure enough, it was a Major so-and-so and a Captain so-and-so. We sat down in my little office, little editor’s office, that day there. The major began by saying that we had committed, The Maroon had committed, a violation of the regulations governing newspapers and publications. I was—you have to bear in mind—I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about. I’d never dealt with such regulations or knew anything about them.
While we were talking, the circulation manager of The Maroon poked his head in the door and said he wanted to tell me that all of our papers had been picked. The newspaper was free; it was distributed throughout the campus. The major, as I recall, cleared his throat and said, “Well.”
He said he had to tell me that the military had gone around the previous night and picked up every single paper throughout the campus and also gone to the printer and destroyed the plates. I was puzzled and didn’t know what we had done. He said he couldn’t tell me much more. He said, of course, they were concerned about a recurrence. And, even at the tender age of 17, I realized if I didn’t know what we had done it would be difficult to avoid being a recidivist. But I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about.
This was Saturday morning. He said they had arranged for me on the following Monday morning to see a dean of the college, who was a man by the name of Lawrence Kimpton, later the president of the university. On Monday morning, I went over to Cobb Hall, which was where the dean’s office was. I had previously dealt with him as the editor, and I’d talked to him. We’d had occasions to talk about, you know, things I needed for stories and so forth. He’d been very friendly with me, so he knew me.
He had spread on his desk a copy of The Maroon, which was an eight-page paper. Anyway, he had it spread out in front of him on his desk. “Well,” he said, “You know, you gave the administration quite a headache over the weekend.”
I said, “These guys had come to see me and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what this was about.”
He then pointed to the article about Compton. He said, “You see the article about Compton?”
I said, “Yes.”
He pointed to one sentence in the article, which said in substance that Compton had been engaged in research about breaking the atom. That’s the substance of what we said.
Now, bear in mind, that statement, sentence, would have come from the university’s public relations files where our reporter went to find out about Compton. So it was no great secret. But, in any event, she wouldn’t have known that. He said, “We have concluded that we need to tell you something, because we don’t want to shut down The Maroon, but we want to be sure nothing happens again that’s a problem.”
He then said the following, and I remember this very vividly: “The reason that the military people came to see me was they were concerned that enemy agents, German or Japanese agents in Chicago, might read The Maroon, and from that might get a clue as to what was going on at the university.” And the military research.
He says, “We’ve concluded we need to tell you something.” He then said, “The research involved—they’re engaged here in developing a great new weapon, which will revolutionize warfare.” That’s exactly what he said to me. He did not use the words “atomic weapon,” but he said, “A great new weapon that will revolutionize.” I remember this very vividly, very accurately.
Unbeknownst to me, Kimpton was also the Personnel Director of the Manhattan Project, but I didn’t know that. He didn’t tell me that Compton was the head of the Manhattan Project, there was nothing like that. But he said, “Look, we have to be careful not to mention anything about the research going on.” It was a very cordial conversation. He said they didn’t want to shut down The Maroon, and he enjoined me not to tell anybody, but just bear in mind that they were concerned about that.
I left the office and I did violate his injunction by talking to my good friend, my very close friend, Alan Strauss, S-t-r-a-u-s-s, who was the business manager and who was majoring in chemistry. I thought he might have some idea as to what this was about. And, Strauss, I told him, and he said he didn’t have the foggiest idea either. So I said, “Fine.”
About a couple of weeks later, Compton was named to be the President of Washington University in St. Louis. That, of course, was a big news story for The Maroon. About the middle of the week, I got a call, again, from this major from military intelligence, and he said, “I assume you’re going to be writing a story about Compton.”
I said, “Absolutely.”
He said, “Well, we want to come and see you.”
Here I am, I was 17 years old, the editor of the student—I drew myself up and I said, “Well, I’d have to put a slug line under the headline, ‘Passed by military censor.’”
I remember there was a long moment of silence, and he then said, “That would not be a good idea.”
It suddenly dawned on me that I’d become the editor of a paper that was shut down. At any event, in about a little while, I said I’d show him the article, of course, and he came out and he sat down at a desk in The Maroon offices and he read it. He didn’t change a comma. He said the article was fine, and we ran the article about Compton becoming the President of Washington University, St. Louis.
Here I was, of course, in possession of one of the greatest scoops of the twentieth century when Kimpton told me, but I couldn’t say anything about it, needless to say. This would have been in May of 1945. The war is still on. On V-E Day, we put on a special edition. Robert Hutchins came to speak at Rockefeller Chapel on the occasion of V-E Day. It was a big event.
I went home for the summer. The school year ended in June; I went home. I lived then in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and I went home. In July [misspoke: August], the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, and it then dawned on me what Kimpton was telling me. I then realized this was what he was trying to talk to me about. But that was the first time I realized what the implications of what they were talking about.
A couple of years later – this is now 1945 – sometime in the late ‘40s, the New Yorker magazine ran an article about security violations in connection with the Manhattan Project. In the article, there’s a paragraph or two and it said sometime in 19—they described the school boy editors at the University of Chicago had created quite a tizzy at the intelligence office, at the Chicago office of military intelligence. They described this incident in a couple of paragraphs.
Reflecting on it later, I thought this was, frankly, kind of preposterous, if you stop to think about it. That anybody would find anything out by reading that article. You must remember that it was at the university. First of all, there were military guards in front of these buildings, parading back and forth. It was obvious to anybody just walking, you’d see that there is something going on.
More significantly than that, if you went into what was called the Reynolds Club, which was a big dining hall at the university. If you would go there for lunch, for example, or even for dinner, you would see there Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard. Some of the most distinguished physicists in the world were there having lunch. Obviously, they were not there engaged in research on the Canterbury Tales!
I mean, some of the most famous scientists in the world were at the university, and you would see them. You would know, certainly, who they were. Fermi taught classes, one of them which I took. Anybody would know that something was going on at the university, if you see people of that great distinction like Szilard, Fermi. All these guys were engaged in work there.
But in any event, I was told by Kimpton – I was told that there was this great new weapon. Again, he did not use the word “atomic.” That was something we learned much later. But he did say a great new weapon which will—and he described it very vividly. It was a very clear impression. So, that is the story of how I knew in 1945 about the atomic bomb, before it was dropped. Of course, some years later, when I was invited to Chicago to come out for a reunion, I told this story. It created great hilarity. I never heard anything further about it.
As I mentioned, one of the courses I was obliged to take as a student in the college was called the “Physical Sciences Survey” course. I went one day to one of the classes; the lecturer was Fermi. I didn’t know who he was. These people were all around, but that was all I knew. So, anyway, that is the story of my knowledge about the atomic bomb.
Kelly: That’s marvelous. They never said, “This is the line that’s the offensive line.” It could have been any part of your report on Compton. I mean, you didn’t know what triggered their— or did you figure it out?
Krash: What triggered their concern was—the story was very straightforward, about just Compton. Didn’t tell a heck of a lot about Compton. I don’t recall all the details. I’m sure it talked about the fact that he won the Nobel Prize and was head of the Division of Physical Sciences. There was the one sentence, which said that he was engaged in doing research on breaking the atom. But let me say, every physicist in the world that was worth anything at that time was engaged in that kind of research. I mean, throughout the world!
Saying that somebody of the stature of Compton, who was a very distinguished physicist, that he was doing this – of course he was doing that. That’s what physicists were doing in the mid-1940s. It really didn’t say anything. Why they were stirred up about it, even 60, 70 years later, I’m still puzzled. Because I think the notion that somehow this would’ve been a tip-off to anybody is kind of ridiculous. There were so many other ways in which if you wanted to know what was going on, it was perfectly obvious that there were things going on. If you were some kind of enemy agent, you would see Fermi or Szilard, you wouldn’t know exactly. But you certainly would discern that there was something going on in these buildings. That is really the story.
Kelly: One of the things we’re doing for our project is actually creating a walking tour of sorts so that people will be standing in front of Eckhart Hall and Ryerson.
Krash: Yes. Well, Eckhart and Ryerson were – the Quadrangle – the major buildings at that time. Now, it’s greatly expanded. But, at that time, there were the quadrangles, and Eckhart and Ryerson were physical sciences buildings. That’s where these guys were, had their offices that were doing some work.
Now, of course, they were doing work at Stagg Field, which was the football field and was a couple of blocks away from those buildings. It was a football stadium and it was there at Stagg Field, in the locker rooms at the gym there, where Fermi did the first chain reaction. But, of course, I didn’t know anything about that.
Kelly: Can you describe the military soldiers walking back and forth in front of Eckhart and Ryerson?
Krash: Yes, yes. There were guards walking back and forth. Now, those were the only few buildings. Other buildings at the university, there was nobody there, as far as I can recall at this point. But there were military guards in front of those buildings, yes, there were.
Kelly: Do you remember – there was a tree that was on the green, on the lawn, maybe fifty feet from the steps of Eckhart, and it was called the Council Tree. This may have been named after you were there. But according to legend, the Manhattan Project scientists who feared that even the halls were bugged or could have been bugged by spies, if they had something they wanted to talk about confidentially, they would go under this tree on the lawn. Did you ever see anything?
Krash: That I didn’t know about. As I mentioned earlier, I was told by the Public Relations Director, Mr. Morgenstern, “Look, there is military research.” I think he used the word “military,” or government research, going on in these buildings. But he didn’t say anything more than that. I mean, he didn’t describe the nature of the research or anybody who was there or identify any of the people there. He just told me there was—and The Maroon should avoid saying anything about those buildings, which of course, we did. We never said anything about that.
Kelly: So, did you pass that along to your colleagues on the staff or not?
Krash: No, no, no, no. I didn’t. After I came back from talking to Kimpton, he’d said, “Look, you got to keep this very secret and confidential.” I did breach that to a very, very, very limited extent by talking to Mr. Alan Strauss. He was a very close friend and he was the business manager. He was a major in chemistry and I thought, he was a student in science, whereas I wasn’t. I thought he could shed some light on it and explain it to me. But he said he didn’t understand it either. Neither one of us ever spoke to anybody about it, no. We strictly adhered to the injunction that we keep it secret.
We didn’t appreciate what it was all about, really, until several months later, in July, when the bomb was dropped. Then, we had, of course, really appreciated what Kimpton was saying to me.
Kelly: Right. Actually, the Hiroshima bomb was dropped in August.
Krash: Okay. Well, then, all right, I thought it was the end of July, but August.
Kelly: Right, right, right.
Krash: Yeah. But, that was when I first became aware, reading the newspaper. I said, “This is what Kimpton was talking to me about.”
Kelly: It’s interesting, the only other call you had from security was when they suspected you might be writing another article about Compton.
Krash: When he was becoming the President of Washington University, St. Louis, we did write an article and they came and they looked at it. This military officer sat down at a desk in The Maroon offices. I gave him the article, which we were going to publish, and he read it and he was very pleasant and said “It’s fine, no problem.” He didn’t change a comma. We didn’t say anything about breaking the atom, and we ran the article and that was that. That was a big story for us, but he didn’t bother us in any other way. The newspaper went on.
Kelly: You mentioned that Fermi had taught a class. Did others of these illustrious scientists—
Krash: Fermi taught. There was a Physics 101 class for people who were going to be become physicists, chemists, medical students, and he taught that introductory course. He was renowned as a very good, exceptionally good teacher for introductory students. The class I went to was the physical sciences survey, and here he was. I assure you I didn’t have the foggiest idea that this was one of the world’s most distinguished physicists when he gave a lecture, maybe one or two lectures. You have to understand that at the University of Chicago at that time, and I’d even think it’s continuing, many of the most distinguished faculty members taught classes in the college.
For example, Frank Knight, who was a very famous economist, taught introductory classes. He lectured, I remember. My social science class was with David Riesman, who later became a very distinguished sociologist. Daniel Bell. There was a tradition at the university that major members of the faculty, people who were very distinguished in their fields, would teach college classes. It was a great treat to have them. The University of Chicago was a very special place.
Kelly: You talked about the curriculum being no electives, at least your first two years. Is that right?
Krash: Yes. When I came, there was what was called the Hutchins College, which began with the eleventh grade. I came as a conventional freshman, like going to any college. But you were admitted then, too. When you came, you took what were called placement exams to see what your level of knowledge was. I took those and anyway, in the college at that time, all of the courses for people like me coming conventionally were prescribed. There were no electives. You took physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, biological sciences, and we took them for two years.
It was a wonderful education. What went on was you were taught in small classes of 20, 25 students with an occasional supplement, an occasional lecture, a large lecture. Basically, in very small classes and you’re reading always original texts. They didn’t have textbooks, but you were reading original things. The great books, that’s what we were reading. We would come to classes and discuss those.
Many of the teachers followed the Socratic or quasi-Socratic method of teaching, and it was teaching by discussion. There were some marvelous teachers there at that time. One of the most famous was a man by the name of Joe Schwab, who was also a scientist. I remember his class was just extraordinary. That was the education at the University of Chicago in the college at that time.
At the end of the second year, you then got a bachelor’s degree, and then I went to law school from there. Since I was only a two-year student, I had to go to law school for four years instead of three, conventionally. They made me go an additional year.
Kelly: Can you talk about Hutchins and what kind of president he was.
Krash: Oh, well, Hutchins remains one of my all-time favorite people. I have a picture of him in my office, as a matter of fact, that he gave me. He was a charismatic person. His father had been a minister. Hutchins himself was a superb orator, and he would give these just incredibly good speeches. They were always practically the same thing. His speeches were about the values of a liberal education and what a university should be. Hutchins was great, because of the questions he asked about what a university should be doing. He had a very clear idea in mind about the relationship between research and teaching. He was a very charismatic figure, really.
I remember inviting him to give the talk at V-E Day, and he came. It was just extraordinary. I went to a number of his—whenever he talked I would want to go listen to hear what he had to say. As I say, I came to realize he basically was always saying the same thing, essentially, in somewhat different words. But he was always speaking. I remember one of his most famous lectures began, “A university is a community of scholars. It’s not a country club. It’s not a glee club. It’s a community of scholars.” He was an exciting person, and he was also a stand-up guy. That’s why many of us admired him.
The Illinois legislature was investigating the university, because of alleged communist influences. A number of us went down to watch him testify. He was amazing. He was so good that he turned around the guy questioning him. He was asking the questions and the guy questioning him was responding. Hutchins was very quick-witted and very, extraordinarily witty and eloquent. To many of us, he was really kind of a hero.
Kelly: It’s been told he’s the one who eliminated football. Is that right, at Chicago?
Krash: What happened was the University of Chicago was a member of the Big 10, as it was constituted. That’s now changed, but at that time. The early years of the last century, Chicago was a great football power, because they had a coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg. Stagg Field was named after him. He was a great coach, and Chicago recruited good players. But beginning around the ‘20s, I believe, the university adopted a policy that everybody admitted had to be admitted under the same standards. In other words, there were no such things as athletic scholarships. If you came, you had to be a student like everybody else, and admitted on the same basis, take the same classes.
Once you did that, you could no longer really effectively compete. Because, the other schools recruited athletes who couldn’t possibly have passed those exams and been students in the same way. This continued into the ‘30s and Chicago was getting really badly beaten by the other teams. I think in the mid-‘30s, there was a fellow by the name of Jay Berwanger, who was an All-American player. But Chicago was really outclassed by other schools who would recruit athletes as athletes, not as students.
Finally, Chicago was beaten, I think, by the University of Michigan football team by like a score of 73-0. Hutchins came into the locker room and said, “I’m going to make sure this never happens again.” What he did, he came to the board of trustees and said, “Look, we just can’t compete with this.” We just couldn’t. So they dropped it. They competed at a level at which they could.
While I was at the university, the Chicago Bears football team was up for sale, the professional team. There was some talk that the university should buy the football team, buy the Chicago Bears, that would be our football team. We would have beaten the hell out of every team in the country if we’d have bought the Bears. But they didn’t. So Chicago ceased to be a major athletic power. But Hutchins had recognized the realities that they could not compete because of the academic policies that they followed, unlike other universities.
Kelly: In setting the stage for the Manhattan Project, that meant that the field was abandoned and the stands were—
Krash: Well, Stagg Field—I remember playing intramural games. Going there, in fact, I was a referee in something. No, the field was still active. Bartlett Gymnasium, which is built right just next to the field – it’s called Bartlett Gymnasium – we went there to work out or play basketball, intramural basketball. No, no, the facilities were all being used. Chicago did play basketball at a different level. No longer could compete in the Big 10. The teams were just exceptionally good players. Chicago couldn’t compete, but they did have basketball, they played. It was still a facility that was being used in my time, anyway.
Kelly: The squash courts, they must have cordoned those off for scientific research or something. They wouldn’t have had people playing there, right. Because they were used for the scientists.
Krash: Yeah, I never knew. There is a statue in front of what were the squash, there is a statue saying, “Here was the first chain reaction.” I believe there’s a statue there now. I’ve passed it by, I think it’s still there.
Kelly: Yes, it is.
Krash: The University of Chicago was really an extraordinary place, I mean, in my time. And, of course, remained so. It was really intellectually a very exciting place for a boy from Cheyenne, believe me. It was really quite a new world.
Kelly: So, why don’t you give us a little sense about your own childhood and what you did after this great expose of atomic research?
Krash: Well, I went to the law school after the college at the University of Chicago. Since I had come out of a two-year college, I was required – unlike people who came from other universities, who’d been four-year students, they could go to law school at Chicago for three years. I and my fellow students who came out of the college, we were required to go four years. I went to the law school four years, and then I went to the Yale Law School as a graduate fellow for a year in 1949, 1950.
From Yale, I came to Washington and I worked for two years with a solo practitioner by the name of Raoul Berger in his office here in Washington. I wanted to come to the government, but there were no jobs, so I got a job with him. Then he closed his office in 1952, after [Dwight] Eisenhower was elected president, and he shut down his office and he went to Harvard to do research.
I was then hired by Arnold, Fortas and Porter in March of 1953 as a temporary associate to take the place of Pat [Patricia] Wald, who was—I had met Pat Wald at Yale. She called me one day. I was without a job and she said, look, would I be willing to come over. She was going to have a baby. She said she was going on maternal leave, and would I be willing to come while she was on maternal leave and take her place for six months. Of course, I was delighted, and I came here. If they’d come and told me to mop the floors, I would have come.
I came to what was then Arnold, Fortas and Porter and within a few months after I was here they invited me to stay as an associate. I’ve been at Arnold and Porter for 60 years. I became a partner and have spent my entire career at the law firm here. When I came, I was the twelfth lawyer, and now it’s a firm of 1,000 lawyers. I witnessed great development and change at the firm, been part of it. It’s been a great experience.
Kelly: What would you say was one of the highlights of your long career?
Krash: Well, one of them was certainly my participation in the Gideon case. One day in the 1960s, Abe Fortas called me into his office. He was the senior partner here. He said he had just been appointed by the Supreme Court to represent an indigent person whose name was Gideon, in a case involving the question of did an indigent person have the right to have a lawyer appointed to assist him. He said that’s all he knew about the case, and he said he wanted me to assist him and supervise the research and so forth. So I did, and we worked all summer. I had a group of people working with me. Fortas, really, was the architect of it. We gave him drafts of briefs, but he really wrote this brief.
Of course, he argued the case in the Supreme Court and it became famous. It’s one of the most famous cases of the last 60 or 70 years, Gideon against Wainwright. We established the right of every accused person to have a lawyer. At the time, we didn’t know it was going to become that famous at all, but it certainly did. I then wrote articles about it and I was invited for years afterwards to give talks about it.
2013 was the 50th anniversary of the Gideon decision. All of a sudden, I was getting calls from people all over the country, asking me if I would come and participate, give talks and just make panels and things of that sort. Because I was the only member of the firm here now surviving who had participated. Fortas, of course, had died. He died in the early 1980s, and two other associates who had worked with us had also died. One of them was John Ely, who was a very distinguished constitutional scholar, became the dean of Stanford Law School. He’d worked with me, but he had died. Anyway, that was one of the highlights.
I had an opportunity – it was the time in Washington, unlike today, with everything so specialized – it was possible to do things in many different areas. I had a chance to litigate things. I had a chance throughout the country, I did a lot of antitrust work. I had a lot of other cases involving other agencies, Federal Communications Commission, SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission], I did. I was able to do a lot of very interesting things, a lot of other pro bono things. I was the president of the Friends of the Law Library of Congress at one point in the ‘90s. But I had a chance, because of the nature of practice at that time in Washington. We were able to do a variety of very challenging, interesting things. Now, less so, because it’s become so specialized, but then it wasn’t. Anyway, I had a terrific experience here. But the atomic story still remains memorable.
Kelly: Indeed. Is there anything about that experience that you think sort of guided you in future years?
Krash: No, no. I enjoyed being the editor of The Maroon. I was the editor of The Maroon for two quarters. Some of my successors were very distinguished. David Broder was one of my successors, who later became a columnist for the Washington [Post]—very, very fine person. Fine journalist, outstanding journalist.
Kelly: Broder took over from you?
Krash: He was, I think, a couple of years later as the editor of The Maroon.
Kelly: Looking back, what advice would you have for young people today?
Krash: About what?
Kelly: About whether they should, you know, pursue journalism when they’re young or law or—
Krash: Well, I never intended to be a lawyer. When I went to law school, I thought I’d be a journalist. That was my ambition. We had no lawyers in my family and I had no experience with lawyers. But when I got out of law school, I was broke, so I stumbled into being a lawyer.
I would say a couple of things. One thing was the University of Chicago experience left me with a lifelong conviction about the values of a liberal education. I’m not saying necessarily for everyone, but for a lot of people, I think that it’s a terrific thing to have, [0:45:00] as opposed to a specialized or vocational education. A liberal education, which was the tradition at the University of Chicago. I’m a great believer in that. I think it just opens your eyes to so many things in the world and enriches you just tremendously. The University of Chicago was one of the great experiences of my life, and I never forgot it.
I remain convinced to this day that that is still a desirable type of education. I think there were a couple of things about the University of Chicago college education. I think I should’ve done better in math and sciences than I did, which I wasn’t that interested. I think that’s essential if you’re going to be educated today, certainly, you have to have that background. I think also that there could have been more emphasis on history than there was. One thing I remain very, very persuaded about is the value of that kind of education, a liberal education.
You know, it can take different forms. There’s no magic form of it. I also thought that the method of education at Chicago –that is the classroom discussion, small classroom discussions – is a very, very fine way. Subsequently, many years later, I was at Oxford where they have a tutorial method. I was a fellow at Oxford and that’s a great method, but it depends on you having a good tutor, and also it’s a very expensive way. But I’m not sure it’s as good a method of teaching as a small class with discussion.
Secondly, I still think – contrary to what some of my friends and others think – I still think that the legal profession is an interesting, exciting, and challenging profession. I think there are exciting things to do in the law. It remains so today. I think it’s harder now than it was when I came in, because firms are now so large, many of them, and you get lost. There are still very challenging and interesting things to do in the law. There’s enormous needs in the criminal law, for example, and other areas of the law, where there are great opportunities to do exciting, challenging, worthwhile things. I still believe that, but I agree that it’s tougher than it was. If you go into a big law firm, the secret in my view is to have a mentor who will be interested in you, and help you along.
I still think that there are, contrary to what some people say, [0:48:00] pooh-pooh being a lawyer. But I don’t share that view.
Kelly: That’s wonderful. So, is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to add?
Krash: I can’t think of anything. I’m sure we’ve exhausted the subject of this and many others.
Kelly: The University of Chicago is going to use this in their recruiting.
Krash: Well, I don’t know about that. I have great affection for the university and I regard it as a very special place.