Professor Vern Countryman, an expert on commercial law, particularly bankruptcy, died in May 1999 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 81 and lived in Cambridge.
Countryman was born in Roundup, Montana, on May 13, 1917.
He received a B.A. in political science in 1939 from the University of Washington and a law degree in 1942 from the University of Washington School of Law.
Countryman worked as an assistant regional attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Seattle before serving as a clerk from 1942 to 1943 for Justice William O. Douglas of the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Countryman then served with the Army Air Forces in Italy during World War II, rising to first lieutenant. After the war, he served as Assistant Attorney General of Washington State in 1946 and as an instructor at the University of Washington Law School from 1946 to 1947.
He held a fellowship at Yale Law School from 1947 to 1948. He was an assistant professor of law from 1948 to 1950 and an associate professor from 1950 to 1955.
Countryman left Yale after he was denied a full professorship in 1954. He believed, as did many of his colleagues, that he was being punished for criticizing the hunt for Communists during the McCarthy era.
He practiced law as a partner with Shea, Greenman & Gardner in Washington, D.C., from 1955 to 1959 before becoming Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1959. He served there until 1964, when he became a professor at Harvard Law School. And in 1973, he was named the Royall Professor of Law, the oldest professorship at the law school. He became a professor emeritus in 1987.
At Harvard, Mr. Countryman was a strong supporter of the rights of debtors. He was also a specialist in commercial law, secured transactions law and civil liberties.
Countryman's books included The Lawyer in Modern Society (Little, Brown, 1976) with Ted Finman and Theodore J. Schneyer; Commercial Law (Little, Brown, 1982) with Andrew Kaufman and Zipporah Wiseman; Debtors' and Creditors' Rights (Bender, 1951) with James William Moore, and The Judicial Record of Justice William O. Douglas (Harvard University Press, 1974).
National Committee Against Repressive Legislation
Consumer Law Center
Countryman was a founding trustee of the National Consumer Law Center, which annually presents the Vern Countryman Award to honor lawyers who have contributed to the rights and welfare of low-income consumers.
GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee
Massachusetts Committee to Abolish HUAC
As at February 28, 1969, Vern Countryman served as Chairman of the Massachusetts Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- NCARL letter, circa October 1965
- Undated, GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee letterhead circa 1969
- Massachusetts Committee to Abolish HUAC letterhead February 28, 1969