A Life Story by Joe Vining

By Joe Vining

I was born in 1938 in Fulton, Missouri. My schooling began early at the University of Arkansas Laboratory School. I was 7 when I left Arkansas and Missouri, and any extended family, to become a Virginian as I grew up in Charlottesville around The University.

Public education was not favored by Virginia’s Byrd Machine in the 40s and 50s even for Whites. At age 12 I was sent to Woodberry Forest, a Virginia boarding school for boys drawing from across the South, to which I owe everything that has brought me to Kendal. At Yale I worked almost entirely in science, principally zoology. A rare chance to rewind took me to Clare College Cambridge to work on a second B.A. and M.A., in History. Cambridge introduced me to the ideal form of a university and to a threadbare postwar England that was my first glimpse of a humane society.

After Harvard Law School I joined the Justice Department in 1964, to work on setting up Lyndon Johnson’s National Crime Commission, before going into practice with the large Washington firm Covington & Burling. The most important thing to happen to me in those Washington years was Alice. Eventually the faculty of Michigan Law School and its extraordinary University drew us to Ann Arbor.

But we were smitten too with Vermont and New Hampshire. One day in 1972 the shards of a set of University of Michigan Wedgewood plates winked at us from a cellarhole beside the AT toward Hanover. So we built a house nearby, looking toward the Delectable Mountains, and came East for our summers and Christmases.

Our passions have included our children and their families, cycle touring, walking the long- distance paths in England, coming to terms with our childhood in the Jim Crow South, and, mine in particular, trying to understand what this sea of law we live in actually is.

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