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Legal journalist Anthony Lewis dies near 50th anniversary of the case he chronicled in ‘Gideon’s Trumpet’

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2013 | Firm News |

Former New York Times reporter Anthony Lewis died on March 25t at the age of 85, just one week after the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court case he chronicled in the book Gideon’s Trumpet.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Lewis died on Monday as a result of complications from renal and heart failure. According to the Times obituary, Lewis brought “an entirely new approach to coverage of the Supreme Court, for which he won his second Pulitzer, in 1963.”

Lewis wrote stories about the court that were both intelligible and compelling, according to University of Washington scholar Ronald K. L. Collins, who created a bibliography of Lewis’ work. “He brought context to the law,” Collins told the Times.

In Gideon’s Trumpet, Lewis chronicled the Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, which established a Sixth Amendment right to counsel for the indigent. Another book he wrote, Make No Law, was about the libel decision New York Times v. Sullivan.

Lewis spoke with the ABA Journal in January for a story about Gideon’s 50th anniversary. “I said in the book that it would take a long time and a lot of difficulty to make representation for the poor a reality,” Lewis told the ABA Journal.

“I still look at the issue the way I did when I wrote the book—as an ideal. That’s not enough, I know,” he said. “But you have to have an ideal. And it was the right ideal.”

Having read Gideon’s Trumpet in college, I was thrilled to have been asked a couple years ago to introduce Mr. Lewis at a talk he gave before a meeting of the American Constitution Society in Chicago on his book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment.  It was a pleasure to meet and speak with him about his views on the First Amendment and his career in journalism. He was wonderful man and a gifted author. He will be sorely missed.