Remembering Josiah H. Blackmore

AuthorDaniel T. Kobil

Page 1

Yet despite his love of talking, Joe never bored an audience. Some of the excitement of listening to Joe speak was that you never knew quite what he would say. You had to listen closely for the surprising, candid truths Joe would drop into conversation. At one of his first law school orientations as Capital’s president, instead of welcoming our enthusiastic new students with platitudes, he informed them that after law school, “You'll find that no one will ever be as comfortable in your presence, ever again.” As with much of what Joe said, it was unexpected, darkly funny, and profound, warning the students of the risks that new skills in argumentation could bring to their personal lives. His students still recall that welcoming talk today.

When Joe offered me a job teaching at Capital Law School 20 years ago, he began by telling me, with a twinkle in his eye that, actually, he had already offered the job to someone else—who had declined. He then informed me that he was not going to give me as much money as he’d offered the other guy. Somehow though, by the time that we were done talking, Joe made me feel like I was the luckiest son of a gun who had ever landed gainful employment.

That was one of Joe’s many remarkable gifts: the ability to express what is true and real in a way that allowed others to hear and understand. There was a quality of genuineness about Joe that was utterly disarming, that pierced all boundaries and invited you to share your story and listen to his. It is a gift that made him a great teacher and a fine lawyer. It also, no doubt, is why so many people treasured him as a mentor.

And what better mentor for young lawyers and teachers could there be than Joe? If I had to capture Joe’s essence in one word, it would be the word that he himself was fascinated with all of his life. It’s a word that he devoted an entire seminar to understanding, and was writing a book about: justice.

Joe believed in justice profoundly, yet it was not the “justice” of an eye for an eye—Joe rejected such a limited, inhumane definition. For Joe, justice was not justice unless it was mingled with mercy and understanding. Joe began his Justice seminar with an excerpt from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the margins of his Aquinas materials, Joe wrote down three laws on which justice is based—and they undoubtedly were the rules by which he lived his life.

Law number one was “Good is universal.” Joe was to “good,” as...

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