Remembering William J. Quirk

Quirk-1William J. Quirk, a beloved law professor, prolific writer, revered intellectual, and the most senior active faculty member at the University of South Carolina School of Law, passed away peacefully on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, in Columbia, SC, after a lengthy illness.  He was 80 years old.

Born in Orange, New Jersey, Professor Quirk was predeceased by his parents, John Joseph and Helen Elizabeth Quirk.  He is survived by his daughter, Augusta Rembert Quirk; sisters, Ann McPadden and Helen Densmore; a brother and sister-in-law, John and Jeanne Quirk; and cousins, Frank, John, James, and Jane.

Professor Quirk was a fixture at the law school for nearly half a century.  He taught courses on taxation and the Constitution, and many of his students moved on to successful careers in law and business.

Professor Quirk had a remarkable cadre of friends, particularly here in South Carolina and in New York, but none were more dear to him than his students.  He loved nothing more than to talk legal and political theory with a group of students over an evening meal.  Many of his students developed close friendships with Professor Quirk that lasted long beyond their law school days.

He graduated from Princeton University in 1956 and received his law degree (LL.B.) from the University of Virginia in 1959.  He spent the next ten years in New York City, first in private practice, and then as General Counsel to the Department of Buildings and counsel for the Law Department of the City of New York.  He returned frequently to his New York City apartment to visit with friends and to attend opera, theater, and other cultural events.  Despite his love for New York, he was a devoted lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox.

In addition to authoring several books focusing on law, political theory, and financial institutions, Professor Quirk’s scores of articles appeared in law journals and in Fortune, Harpers, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsday, American Scholar, and Society Magazine. He was also a contributing editor to The New Republic and Chronicles.  He wrote on everything from the causes of the economic collapse of 2008 to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns.

Professor Quirk wrote extensively about government policy and urged a return to the Jeffersonian principles that he held dear.  Professor Quirk’s writings figured prominently in national discourse across the political spectrum and often gave an early voice to ideas that would later receive widespread attention.  Professor Quirk enjoyed the debate of ideas from all perspectives: his most recent book, on courts and congress, included a foreword by Ralph Nader and an enthusiastic jacket endorsement by Pat Buchanan.

A memorial service will be held at the University of South Carolina School of Law at a later date, which will be announced on the law school’s website.

Memorials may be made to the USC School of Law to establish the William J. Quirk Scholarship Fund.  Donations may be sent to USC School of Law, 701 Main Street, Suite 202, Columbia, SC 29208; in the memo line, please note: William J. Quirk Scholarship.

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