Remembering SMU Law Professor Emeritus Roark Reed

Roark Reed
Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Clinical Education
SMU Dedman School of Law

Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Clinical Education Roark Reed, 76, died January 7, 2017, at a hospice facility in Charlottesville, Virginia. Professor Reed joined the faculty of SMU Dedman School of Law in 1975 to start the Criminal Justice Clinic and serve as Associate Dean for Clinical Education. He served as director of the Death Penalty Project from 2001-2008. Professor Reed retired from SMU in 2010 after 35 years as a devoted faculty member. 

Professor Reed was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He earned his B.A. and J.D. from Georgetown University, and served in the U.S. Marine Reserves. His legal career began as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia and then Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. In 1982, Professor Reed was awarded the first of two Fulbright Lectureships in Japan. His work as a Fulbright Fellow made him a leading authority on U.S. criminal procedure in Japan.

Professor Reed was devoted to improving the U.S. criminal justice system and to his students whom he trained to become part of that system. “Roark accomplished it all without taking himself too seriously,” said C. Paul Rogers III, Professor of Law and former Dean, SMU Dedman School of Law. “He had an infectious love of life and a wonderful sense of humor that always brightened everyone’s day. All of us will miss his good cheer and commitment to clinical legal education.”  

William J. Bridge, Associate Professor of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law, recalled his law school days when Professor Reed supervised him in the Criminal Justice Clinic at Georgetown Law School, “He was a gentle, wise, and firm mentor, with a great sense of humor, and a passion for justice. Roark remained the same gentle, wise, passionate mentor to young faculty members in criminal justice, and to hundreds of law students and young lawyers. Illness took him from the faculty too soon.”

Many of Professor Reed’s clinic students went on to distinguished careers in criminal practice, prosecution, defense, on the bench, and in the legislature. Others, in corporate practice or business, still credit his teaching as a vital contribution to their legal education. “Professor Reed was an inspiration to his students and those with whom he worked. He made a huge contribution to the law school and the Dallas legal community,” said Jennifer Collins, Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law. “He will be missed by all.” 

He is survived by his five children, Kathleen Reese, Michael Roark Reed, Jr., Jenny R. Conway, Joseph Brendan Reed, and John Jamison Reed; a sister and three brothers, as well as seven grandchildren.

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