That was the question moderator Mark Wilson, assistant director for the Center of Art and Humanities, asked a room full of Auburn students who had gathered to hear Daniel J. Meador speak Tuesday in the Student Center.
In 1949, Meador, a native of Greenville, graduated from Auburn with a B.S. degree in pre-law.
Sixty years later, the distinguished alum was back on campus to discuss his life and many accomplishments since graduating from the University.
Meador attended college at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., before transferring to Auburn in 1946 as a sophomore.
“My father had graduated from Auburn and four of my uncles attended the University,” Meador said. “So I came to Auburn, really, by default. It was no decision of my own."
While at Auburn, Meador participated in a “very good” debate team. To this day, he considers his involvement with the team to be the greatest highlight of his Auburn career.
Meador vividly recalled traveling to other schools around the South, such as the University of Alabama, Springhill College in Mobile, LSU, Ole Miss and Tulane, to partake in debate tournaments.
“It was fascinating to meet people from other schools,” Meador said.
Meador articulately described the atmosphere of Auburn University during the late '40s.
He recalled the large influence of World War II veterans on campus. The veterans had returned to school after serving in the war and missing out on college because of the draft.
He even commented on the fashion around the campus at the time. Meador laughed about how the soldiers would mix pieces of their military uniforms with civilian clothes.
“Sometimes it worked,” Meador said. “But most of the time it just looked very funny.”
And the football, something that is such a large part of Auburn, Meador doesn’t remember much about.
“I don’t remember the football team’s record,” Meador said. “It must not have been outstanding, or I would have remembered it.”
Though he doesn’t remember the record, Meador remembers the football hero of that time, Spec Kelly.
“He put on a good show,” Meador said.
After Auburn, Meador received his J.D. from the University of Alabama, and then went on to Harvard where he earned his LL. M in 1954.
During the Korean War, Meador served as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the Army in Korea. While in Korea, he tried court marshall cases and considered it a “great experience” of his career.
Meador accredits his participation in the ROTC program while at Auburn for preparing him for his stint in Korea.
As a young lawyer, he worked as a law clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black on the U.S. Supreme Court, who is often regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices of the 20th century.
While addressing the audience, Meador spoke highly of Black.
“It was one of the the best years of my life,” Meador said.
He then went on to practice law in Birmingham for a few years, and in 1957 he joined faculty at the University of Virginia, where he spent the majority of his law career.
At the University of Virginia, Meador received the Thomas Jefferson Award, Raven Award and the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award.
He also has received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Center for State Courts, the American College of Trial Lawyers Litigation Award and the Justice Award from the American Judicature Society.
Meador served as dean of the University of Alabama Law School from 1966 to 1970. At that time he was also chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Journal of Legal Education and a member of the board of directors of the American Society for Legal History.
From 1977 to 1979, Meador was an assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. He served under the 72nd U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell in the shadow of the Watergate scandal.
“I worked with drafting several bills for Senate to consider, though some were rejected, most of them eventually got adopted,” Meador said.
One of the most significant accomplishments of his time as assistant attorney general was the development of a bill that resulted in the formation of the U.S. Court of Appeals for a Federal Circuit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for a Federal Circuit was established for a nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws.
Before these cases were tried in one of the 12 circuit courts of appeals, the rulings were often inconsistent depending on the court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for a Federal Circuit was intended to make the decisions in these types of cases more uniform.
He spent spring 1984 serving as visiting professor of law in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In addition to his many articles in legal works and periodicals, Meador has also authored or co-authored nine books on law-related subjects, including Preludes to Gideon, American Courts and Mr. Justice Black and His Books.
He also wrote At Cahaba: From Civil War to the Great Depression, a book about the first capitol of Alabama, located just southwest of Selma in Dallas County. Meador spends a good bit of his time working now with a group to raise money to buy the remaining land surrounding the historical capitol.
Meador is also the author of three novels – His Father’s House, Unforgotten and Remberton.
“I always had it in my body to write a novel, but I was always too busy” Meador said. “I figured out the only way to do it is just sit down and do it."
Meador mentioned that he has never known how any of his novels were going to end until he was almost finished with the book.
“Writing a novel is a very peculiar process, but very interesting,” Meador said. "It’s an intellectual diversion from life; it’s a fantasy land in a sense.”
Kate Boston, junior in English and political science, enjoyed Meador's speech.
“I thought it was very good,” Boston said. “It was very informative; I have never heard of Cahaba until today."
Boston learned about Meador coming to speak in one of her political science classes, as did her fellow classmate Sam Lamere, junior in Spanish and political science.
“I heard about it in my evidence and legal reasoning class and it sounded interesting,” Lamere said. “It’s always neat to learn from the generation before us, and especially someone as accomplished as he is.”