Memorial set for beloved Akron Law professor
Legal News Reporter
Published: March 15, 2017
During his many years in the U.S. Air Force, retired Col. Hamilton DeSaussure (“Des”) earned many accolades; as a law professor he was known for his dedication and concern for his students, even inspiring some of his own children and grandchildren to become lawyers.
On Feb. 23, DeSaussure died peacefully at his home. He was 95.
“My father was a good and loving dad,” said Hamilton DeSaussure Jr., his youngest child. “My father wanted to help people. He was a kind and caring person with a gentle spirit.
“I am still getting used to the fact that he is gone,” said DeSaussure Jr., a member at Day Ketterer, who also serves on the Akron Bar Association Board of Trustees.
“My father had a keen adventurous spirit,” said his daughter, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ariane DeSaussure. “He was a good father and he exposed us to a lot of different things when we were growing up.”
Born on Nov. 24, 1921 in Brunswick, Georgia, DeSaussure grew up in Washington D.C.
He enrolled at Yale University, but left school to serve in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps.
During World War II, his son said he was a bomber pilot, flying a B-24 Liberator (the “Miss I Hope”) from Cerignola, Italy with the 455th Bombardment Group of the 304th Bomb Wing of the 15th Air Force.
DeSaussure later received a Certificate of Valor for 35 missions over enemy territory, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Three Oak Leaf Clusters for extraordinary achievement in aerial flight and other battle and campaign medals.
“I remember my father telling me about the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Squadron,” the younger DeSaussure said.
After the war, he returned to Yale and obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1946. Two years later, while still on active duty, he received his law degree from Harvard Law School.
He later obtained an LL.M. from McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law.
After graduating law school, DeSaussure was stationed in Tokyo as an active duty lawyer, assisting Japan in becoming a democratic state. While in Japan, he was called to flight duty during the early days of the Korean conflict, flying multiple missions into Pyongyang, North Korea.
It was during his time in Japan that DeSaussure met and then married his wife, Maj-Britt Sundberg. They have five children and were married until she passed away in July 2016.
Following his service in Japan and Korea, DeSaussure remained in the Air Force JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps and was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, Ankara, Turkey and Washington D.C.
When he retired from active duty in 1970, DeSaussure was awarded the Legion of Merit, First Oak Leaf Cluster. He moved to Hudson, Ohio the same year.
DeSaussure served as a faculty member at The University of Akron School of Law for about 25 years, teaching a variety of courses ranging from torts and conflicts of law to specialized areas like the law of the sea as well as international and air and space law.
Ariane, who attended Akron Law during the time her father was a professor, said her dad had an open door policy for any student who needed help.
“He was not my teacher but other students would tell me that he was very patient,” said Ariane, also a retired member of the JAG Corps. “He was considered an expert in air and space law, international law and the law of the sea. Because he was a former military officer he was able to help his students understand the practical applications of what he was teaching.”
William D. Rich, associate professor of law at Akron Law and chairman of the Faculty Senate, first met DeSaussure or, “Des” as he was known, in 1981.
“I know that the students really appreciated him as a teacher,” said Rich. “He was a kind, gentle person who never harbored any ill feelings toward anyone.”
Rich said DeSaussure did a lot of research in the areas of international, maritime and air and space law.
“He wrote and advocated that instead of trying to come up with completely new laws governing space, the laws of the sea could be adapted since there were important similarities between the two environments,” said Rich.
During his years at Akron Law, DeSaussure also taught at other academic institutions like McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law, the Naval War College, the Presidio and West Point.
DeSaussure retired from Akron Law in 1992 but remained on emeritus status for several years, during which he continued active scholarship and teaching.
Jack Sahl, Joseph G. Miller Professor of Law and director of The Joseph G. Miller and William C. Becker Center for Professional Responsibility, described DeSaussure as a “lawyer statesman, who always stayed above the fray but was there to give people advice and support.
“He had a wonderful smile and a very big heart,” said Sahl. “He was very articulate and always stayed well versed on contemporary events, especially international matters.
“When he went to emeritus status, we missed his regular presence on the faculty. His granddaughter, Hillary, is now one of my fellows at the Center for Professional Responsibility.”
Both daughter and son said their father stayed mentally engaged until the day he passed away.
“He had a very curious mind,” Ariane said. “He enjoyed learning new things and he was always interested in the latest technology.”
In fact, Rich said DeSaussure first started using a personal computer back in the 1980s.
Ariane said her father loved to travel, especially with her mother.
“He also loved to go camping,” she said. “We lived in Turkey for a few years and before we came back to the U.S. we went camping at sites from Venice to Naples. We had a real blast.”
DeSaussure Jr. said one of the most important lessons he learned from his father was to gather all the facts before making a judgment.
“My father was a good listener and he would never speak out about an issue until he understood both sides,” he said. “He would also only speak up if he thought he had something to add.
“I try to follow his example as much as possible.”
A memorial service paying tribute to DeSaussure’s life will be held on March 16 at 6 p.m. at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Hudson followed by a private interment at the Markillie Cemetery.
The longtime Hudson resident is survived by his children, Amory Kaiser of Chandler, Arizona, Ariane DeSaussure of Washington D.C., Margaret DeSaussure of Austin, Texas and Hamilton DeSaussure Jr. of Hudson, Ohio as well as nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife Maj-Britt and his son James P. DeSaussure.