UI law prof Baldus passes away at 75


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David Baldus wasn’t afraid to break the rules.

On a hiking trip to Canada with his wife, the two of them entered a trail not recommended for groups of fewer than six because of bears.

Instead of turning back, they continued on and shouted to scare off the bears.

“He was walking in front and shouting parts of Shakespeare,” said his wife, Joyce Carman. “The little parts that he loved so much.”

Baldus, a Joseph B. Tye Professor in the University of Iowa College of Law, died Monday morning after a 15-monthlong battle with cancer. He was 75.

He was a nationally renown scholar and lawyer, whose empirical work analyzed race discrimination in the United States, especially with concerns to the death penalty.

“His empirical work related to race and the death penalty was of really singular importance,” said UI law Professor Gerald Wetlaufer. “We’ll miss him a lot.”

Baldus was born in Wheeling, W.V. in 1935. He received a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1957. He loved traveling, sailing, and opera music, Carman said.

Baldus leaves behind two daughters, four stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

Daughter Katherine had planned to be married this weekend.

“He had hoped to be well enough to go to this wedding,” Carman said. “Truly one of his goals was to get to his daughter Katherine.”

Baldus came to Iowa in 1969 from a private practice in Pittsburgh. In 1976, he met Carman after friends set them up on a blind date. Four years later, they were married.

“[David] had a witty sense of humor … a lot of people didn’t see it, but when they did, it was quite effective,” Carman said.

During his time at the UI, Baldus published two books and many articles about race discrimination and the death penalty.

He was considered an expert in death-penalty law and litigation, said Eric Andersen, an associate dean of the UI law school and a close friend of Baldus’. He was continually asked to be an expert witness and was consulted in the world of law practice.

Baldus made an impact, not only in the academic world but also in his personal life.

“He has an infectious personality, he had a lively mind, and he had the ability to subordinate his own ego in order to get other people to work on a project constructively,” said Charles Pulaski, a longtime friend who cowrote several studies with Baldus.

And those close to Baldus said he left an impression not only in the courtroom but to those close to him.

“He is a great loss to those who knew him personally because he was an incredibly decent man, a wonderful colleague, a good friend and a giant of an intellectual leader,” said Arthur Bonfield, a UI law-school associate dean.

A funeral will be held at Lensing Funeral Home in Iowa City in July.

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