College of Law remembers Professor Emeritus Bill Lockhart

Apr 22, 2024 | Faculty

by Lindsay Wilcox

Professor William J. Lockhart, an older man with grey curly hair and a silver beard wearing a brown tweed suitProfessor Emeritus William (Bill) J. Lockhart, who taught at S.J. Quinney College of Law for nearly 50 years, passed away April 16, 2024, at age 90.

Born in Los Altos, Calif., Lockhart later moved to Minneapolis, Minn., with his family and worked as a canoe and fishing guide as a teen. He graduated from the University of Minnesota before serving three years in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, with two of those years as supply officer on a destroyer in Asia.

“Lockhart’s first legal assignment came in the Navy when he was assigned to defend—not as a trained lawyer—a sailor whose confession to an accusation of petty theft ‘had been beaten out of him,'” wrote Utah Law alum Marty Stolz (’10) in a 2008 Stegner Center profile of Lockhart. “And his sense of injustice was further honed when, as a supply officer, Lockhart watched a Taiwanese vegetable merchant, with whom he had negotiated to a fair contract, hauled off to jail for bypassing the customary bribes exacted by Chinese Nationalist Harbor Masters as the price for suppliers’ harbor access for resupply of U.S. Navy ships.”

After earning his JD from the University of Minnesota law school in 1961, where he served as president and editor in chief of the Minnesota Law Review, Lockhart joined the Utah Law faculty in 1964, teaching administrative, constitutional, and environmental law. Active with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1960s and 1970s, Lockhart originally focused on representing Utahns experiencing racism and inequity.

Professor William J. Lockhart in his office
Professor William J. Lockhart in his office (circa 1980)

He later served as a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the U.S. from 1970-73 and conducted a case study on exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Justice Department with Professor Kenneth Culp Davis. Lockhart also served as acting U.S. Attorney for Utah in 1974-75, administering President Ford’s clemency program for Vietnam draft evaders.

In the 1980s and beyond, Lockhart began focusing on protecting national parks and public lands, especially within Utah. He earned Fulbright grants in 2000 and 2004 to study national parks and wildlife refuge protection in India, focusing on “consequences of third world-development projects promoted by multi-national corporations and international funding agencies,” according to the Marriott Library. Lockhart also conducted an International Environmental Practicum with law students, who prepared litigation handled by cooperating attorneys in India.

Professor Emeritus Dick Aaron recalled the late boxer and Nevada district court judge Mills Lane being in awe of “Wild Bill’s” constitutional law class because the questions had so many parts “it was hard to remember all of the predicates” and that Lockhart took everything he did very seriously.

“Most serious to Bill was the threat to the beauty and abundance of Utah. His energy was protecting that beauty and abundance through the tools of litigation,” Aaron said. “Bill’s legacy is hidden in the reporters and archives and the memories of a dwindling group. All of us who find this law school a place of opportunity worth investing our professional lives simply assume its stature. Bill’s shoulders were one of those on which we stand.”

When he wasn’t working, Lockhart spent time exploring the West, rafting or canoeing the Green, Colorado, Salmon, and Snake Rivers, and hiking and backpacking in southern Utah, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. He also shared his love of the outdoors with his four children: Laura, William B., Ann, and Zoey.

“My father’s life was shaped by his passion for the natural world and his commitment to its protection. He passed his passion to his four children and shared it with generations of students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law,” Laura Lockhart said. “Bill focused on making a difference in conservation of public lands through his work on the development and enforcement of management plans and regulations in the United States, India, and developing countries.”

Though he retired from the College of Law in September 2011, Lockhart remained active, continuing to promote environmental legal reform in India (among other goals).

“I think everyone who knew Bill (maybe even environmental marauders he sued) would tell you that he was a kind, generous, super-smart human being who was always ready to step up and be of service to anyone in need, offering his legal acumen on social justice and environmental matters for free,” said Lockhart’s former wife Terri Martin in a Facebook tribute. “This short piece about his life [on Facebook] doesn’t begin to describe all the ways he tried to make the world a more just and equitable place, and to protect the natural world that we are all part of.”

Read Professor Lockhart’s obituary now (memorial information will be available soon). Share your memories of Professor Lockhart now on this remembrance page.