The Master Mason:
How Professor Baldus Built a Bridge from
Learning to Law and the Legacy of Equal
Justice He Leaves Behind
James E. Baker
I am struggling. I am struggling with Dave’s death. I am also struggling
to write a festschrift for Dave. Don’t get me wrong; his life and work warrant
celebration and recognition. He was a great friend, mentor, scholar, and
advocate. But there are challenges.
The first challenge is that I would rather have delivered my comments
in person. I expected to. A eulogy is not what I had in mind; celebration
with Dave and Joyce is. And, while it is entirely appropriate to celebrate the
life and passing of a wise elder, Dave was so much more. He was a man of all
ages and no age at all. One of the many reasons that his death is tragic is
that he retained a child’s curiosity for new knowledge. Like a child, he bore
no bias. His was an open mind. And this mind had so much more to do and
The second challenge is that Dave was a modest man, in all the right
ways. Some people who are modest still hope nonetheless for a bit of
recognition. I think Dave, however, secretly abhorred the prospect of a
festschrift. Indeed, when I talked to him about it in the spring, he said he
was quite willing to entertain such a recognition—so long as no one talked
about him! I don’t know German, but I did have a suspicion that the whole
idea behind a festschrift was to talk about him.
Thus, I feel somewhat sheepish—almost disloyal—now writing and
talking about Dave behind his back. He was a loyal friend. He was the kind
of friend you would want on your right or your left in combat if you were a
soldier. If you were in trouble, there was no better person to come to your
aid, either as a lawyer in front of a court, or a friend on the other end of the
phone or computer. Dave’s modesty would have made him cringe and
squirm at a festschrift, which of course, would have been much of the fun.
But while Dave’s modesty should be noted, there is nothing modest about
Chi ef Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and Adjunct
Professor, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2004–present.