Lion of W&L Law, Roy Steinheimer, Dies at 98

Roy Lee Steinheimer, Jr., one of the most important figures in the history of the Washington and Lee University School of Law, died yesterday in Lexington, VA.  Part of W&L President Ken Ruscio note to the University on learning of Roy’s death follows.

“I write with the sad news that Roy Lee Steinheimer Jr., the dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law from 1968 to 1983, and the Robert E.R. Huntley Professor of Law Emeritus at W&L, died on Thursday, Jan. 8, in Lexington. He was 98.

Roy Steinheimer’s deanship was a pivotal one for Washington and Lee’s Law School. He left a genuine legacy, and more than any other individual shaped the Law School that exists today. His contributions were profound, and we shall be forever grateful for his service and dedication to the University.

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During Roy’s landmark tenure as dean, the Law School moved into Lewis Hall, welcomed its first women students, further diversified its student body, and strengthened its national profile.

Roy was born on Dec. 2, 1916, in Dodge City, Kansas, to Roy L. Steinheimer Sr. and Nettie E. Steinheimer. He received his A.B. in 1937 from the University of Kansas and his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1940. He practiced law with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City for 10 years before returning to the University of Michigan, where he taught from 1950 to 1968.

He came to W&L in 1968 as dean, and after his retirement from that post continued to teach here. In 1985, he was named the Robert E.R. Huntley Professor of Law and taught commercial transactions and consumer protection. He also spent a semester, in 1984, at the University of Alabama as the first occupant of the John Sparkman Distinguished Professorship. He retired from W&L in 1987.

Roy’s primary field was commercial law. He served on the Uniform Commercial Code committees of the American and Michigan state bar associations and lectured widely on the code. He belonged to the American Bar Association, American Arbitration Association and American Law Institute. In 1970, he headed a White House task force that investigated ways to explain the American legal system to children.

He also belonged to the honorary societies of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

Roy wrote many articles and books, including the two-volume “Uniform Commercial Code Forms with Practice Comments” (1969) and the two-volume “Desk Reference to the Uniform Commercial Code” (1964).

Upon his retirement from the deanship in 1983, the law faculty established the Roy L. Steinheimer Jr. Commercial Law Award, which is given each year to the graduating student who has compiled the most outstanding record in commercial law. In 1984, alumni and friends created the Roy L. Steinheimer Jr. Professorship in Law.

When he stepped down from the dean’s post, law students commissioned an artist to paint portrait of Roy, which now hangs in Lewis Hall.

Roy was as well known for his colorful sportcoats as he was for his oft-repeated answer to faculty requests, “My hands are tied,” and for the well-known slogan that an unknown law professor coined after hearing that answer: “I’ve been Royed.”

Known as “The Sky Dean,” he piloted a Beech Bonanza until he was 76 over the skies of the East Coast on recruitment trips. He also flew in Alaska, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. And he raised sheep both in Michigan and Virginia.

He married Jane Powell Patchett in 1949; she died in 1982. Roy married Frances Pugh in 1988; she died in 2008. Roy is survived by Frances Pugh Steinheimer’s daughters, Sarah Pugh Dicks ’86L and Susan Pugh Morten.”

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