Skip to main content

Northwestern Law Professor Anthony D’Amato dies at age 81

head shot of Professor D'Amato

CHICAGO - Anthony D’Amato, one of the longest-serving faculty members at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, died March 24. He suffered a stroke earlier this year. He was 81.

D’Amato retired from the Law School in 2015 after 37 years of teaching and research, where he was the Judd and Mary Morris Leighton Professor of Law with a focus in ethics and human rights. His courses included “Analyzing Human Rights,” “International Law,” “Jurisprudence” and “Principles of Justice.”

D’Amato had a long and storied career and was the first American lawyer to argue (and win) a case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He litigated a number of human rights cases around the world and was a prolific writer, publishing countless books and articles. His first book, “The Concept of Custom in International Law,” was published in 1971 and is one of the most cited works in the field. He litigated a number of human rights cases around the world and was the author of more than 20 books and 110 articles.

“There are many things Tony can be remembered for, but what I sincerely hope he is remembered for most is that he was an internationally recognized and revered scholar of international law, and that he devoted his professional life to fighting for international protection of human rights,” said Martin Redish, the Louis and Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy at Northwestern. “He also loved Northwestern Law and fought hard to maintain and improve its scholarly stature. He is an important part of Northwestern Law history and should be recognized as such.”

His passion for theater and music also benefitted the Law School. At faculty law review dinners, he played the piano and led the faculty to its most “professional and engaging performances,” recalled David Ruder, former dean of the Law School, upon D’Amato’s retirement. This passion also led to D’Amato’s involvement as a producer of the musical “Grease” in its original run in Chicago in the 1970s and its subsequent run on Broadway.

Before joining the Law School in 1968, D’Amato was a professor of political science at Wellesley College from 1963-1966. While an undergrad at Wellesley, Hillary Clinton, who later went on to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election, served as one of his student researchers.

D’Amato received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude. He also received a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Throughout his career, he was a member of several professional organizations including the American Society of International Law, the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, the International League for Human Rights, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and more.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, two sons, Brian and Paul and two grandchildren. There is no service planned. Memorial donations may be directed to Amnesty International or The Nature Conservancy.

Editor's Picks

Back to top