Obituary: Ralph S. Brown

Ralph S. Brown, Simeon E. Baldwin Professor Emeritus of Law and Frank E. Taplin Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale, died on Wednesday, June 17, following a brief illness. He was 85.

Born in 1913 in Federalsburg, Maryland, he was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy. He received a B.A. from Yale College in 1935, and an LL.B. (cum laude) from Yale Law School in 1939. At Yale, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. While in law school, he also served as an assistant editor of the Yale edition of Horace Walpole’s correspondence.

Following law school, Professor Brown was an associate with the New York City law firm of Wright, Gordon, Zachry & Parlin. In 1941, he moved to Washington D.C., where he served as an attorney for the Office of Price Administration.

He joined the Yale Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1946, following four years of service in the U.S. Navy. He was promoted to full professor in 1953. Beginning in 1984, after achieving emeritus status at Yale, he was a visiting professor at New York Law School.

A nationally recognized expert in copyright and unfair competition, defamation issues, and issues of privacy and publicity, Professor Brown taught courses in government regulation and copyright law at Yale for over four decades. He was a beloved teacher who took great interest in those who studied under him. His final course, “Copyright and Unfair Competition,” was offered at Yale Law School in the fall semester of 1997. Up until the time of his death, he was engaged in grading final examinations and writing recommendation letters for judicial clerkships on behalf of his students.

Professor Brown was the author of numerous scholarly articles on copyright and unfair competition, and the co-editor of the first casebook on that subject, “Cases on Copyright, Unfair Competition and Other Topics.” Originally published in 1960, this seminal work had its 6th edition issued in 1995. He was an invited witness before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property on several occasions. In 1990, he was given a special award in recognition for his career of teaching and publication by the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.

Professor Brown was also the author of “Loyalty and Security,” published by the Yale University Press in 1958, for which he received the Gerard C. Henderson Memorial Prize from the Harvard Law School. The Henderson Prize is awarded “to the author of a critical and constructive work, of outstanding excellence, dealing with administrative law or other legal problems affecting government.”

Ralph Brown was active in leadership and administrative service to Yale, to professional organizations, and to the town of Guilford, Connecticut, where he made his home.

At Yale Law School, he served as associate dean from 1965 to 1970. For many years, he was a member of the board of governors of the Yale University Press, and served as chairman of the Press’ Committee on Publications from 1966 to 1979. He served as chairman of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility 1981-1983.

Professor Brown was a member of the national board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1955 to 1991 and served on its executive committee, 1970-1974 and 1986-1990. He was a member of the council of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 1958-1960 and 1964-1967. He served as president of AAUP, 1968-1970, and general counsel, 1983-1986. Professor Brown chaired that organization’s Committee A (Academic Freedom and Tenure) from 1973-1975. He was also a founding board member of the Society of American Law Teachers.

From 1959 to 1965, Professor Brown served as executive director of the Walter E. Meyer Research Institute of Law, a foundation which supported scholarly research with the objective of “securing to humanity a greater degree of justice.” During his tenure, the Institute made grants totaling approximately $2.5 million to about 100 grantees.

Professor Brown was a selectman in the Town of Guilford, 1953-1957, and served for many years on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission. He was also a member of the Charter Revision Commissions of 1959 and 1991. From 1963-1994 he was on the board of corporators of The Guilford Savings Bank. He was on the board of Chestnut Hill Concerts in Madison, Connecticut, and was a member of Keyart’s Klamberers, a shoreline hiking group.

He is survived by his wife, the former Elizabeth Mills; three daughters, Lauren, of Branford, Connecticut; Valerie, of Brooklyn, New York; and Lila, of Frankfurt, Germany; and four grandchildren. He is also survived by two brothers, Elliott, of Naples, Florida, and Huey, of Snow Hill, Maryland; two sisters, Sarah McCulloch of Guilford, Connecticut, and Barbara Pace of Chatauqua, New York; and numerous nieces and nephews. A private burial service is planned; George Sullivan, Jr. Guilford Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. A memorial service for Professor Brown will be held at Yale Law School at a later date.

Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325