J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Duke Law Professor Honored with Rex Lee Advocacy Award

Walter DellingerThe Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society presented Walter E. Dellinger III with the Rex Lee Advocacy Award at its 19th annual awards ceremony held June 5 in Washington, D.C. The award is presented annually to one of the nation’s outstanding advocates whose life and legal practice reflects the values exemplified by the award’s namesake, Rex E. Lee, a former U.S. Solicitor General, university president, and founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University.

Dellinger’s receipt of the 2019 award honors a lifelong career of legal service. The North Carolina native graduated with honors in political science from the University of North Carolina, graduated from Yale Law School, and served as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. Award After serving in the White House as a constitutional advisor to President Clinton, Dellinger became the U.S. Assistant Attorney General over the Office of Legal Counsel. He later served as acting Solicitor General, before returning to North Carolina as a law professor at Duke University.

In accepting his award, Dellinger reflected that his interest in the law stemmed back to the 5th grade when, as the only Catholic in his class, he and a Jewish classmate were asked to leave the class during Bible instruction.  Later, when mandatory school prayer was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, he reflected on his discussions with Rex Lee, remembering, “Rex felt the weight of his role. When he was urged—ordered really—to argue for school prayer, he felt that the most he could reasonably hope for was a moment of silence.”

In reflecting on what he learned from Lee about being an effective advocate, Dellinger said what made Lee so effective was his candor. “People wanted to hear what Rex Lee had to say. I asked to have the chance to be alone with Rex. I knew the President was going to ask me to be Solicitor General. I wanted his advice.”
Romney and Dillinger
Keynote speaker Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) talked about his own memories of Rex Lee and others who exhibited many of the same leadership qualities. The first was Jimmy John Liautaud. Graduating next to the last in his high school class, a college education was not likely for Liautaud. He convinced his father to loan him $10,000 to open a sandwich shop. Now known as Jimmy John’s, Liautaud presides over an empire of 1500 stores—and counting. While a guest on his yacht one day, Romney asked Liautaud, “Did sandwiches buy all this?”  Liautaud responded, “No. . . extra cheese did!”  Like Lee, Romney continued, “Jimmy John was an optimistic, buoyant, humorous positive individual.”
In describing the second attribute he most admired about Lee, Romney said, “He lived for something greater than himself. He had a greater sense of purpose.”
Romney then talked about Tom Monaghan who grew up in a Catholic orphanage. He received a scholarship to go to the University of Michigan. While there, he sold his VW bus and bought a pizza shop, which he built into the Domino’s chain with over 10,000 locations worldwide. After he had purchased the Detroit Tigers with his wealth, Monaghan told Romney, “I’m not living in a way consistent with my values. He signed the ‘Millionaire’s Vow of Poverty,’ selling everything he had and handing a check for over $1 billion to Catholic Charities.”

Finally, Romney said Lee showed that concern for the individual could fundamentally shape the character of people around you. He spoke of J. Willard Marriott, Jr. (Bill), saying, “No one has had more of an impact on me as a person than Bill. Over 700,000 people wear a Marriott name badge of some type. He has a quality that is very genuine—a real concern for people. Like Bill Marriott, Rex Lee showed great humor and character, and lifted the lives of thousands of people at each of the institutions that he led.”

Posted: 2019-07-10