Former Oregon Law School Dean Rennard Strickland Passes

Former Dean Rennard Strickland

Rennard Strickland, former University of Oregon School of Law Dean, passed away January 5, 2021, in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 80 years old. Strickland served as dean from 1997 to 2002, and on the faculty until his retirement in 2006. He was Osage and a citizen of the Cherokee nation and considered a national leader in Indian law. At Oregon Law, Dean Strickland strongly supported the incorporation of Indian law courses into the curriculum and taught a popular seminar on Indian law and policy. Most recently he was the Senior Scholar in Residence at the University of Oklahoma Law Center. 

Part of Strickland’s incredible legacy at Oregon Law School is the annual Rennard Strickland Lecture. The Native Environmental Sovereignty Project, a project of the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center, created this lecture series to examine native leadership in the 21st Century. The lecture is cosponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. The lecture series is inspired by Rennard’s work, finding particular significance in the following passage from his visionary book, Tonto’s Revenge: “If there is to be a post-Columbian future – a future for any of us – it will be an Indian future … a world in which this time, … the superior world view … might even hope to compete with if not triumph over, technology.”

“I met Rennard when I began my journey into academia nearly two decades ago and then was thrilled to grow closer to him in the past few years as the dean of Oregon Law,” current Dean Marcilynn A. Burke said. “He was an inspirational and generous soul with a great sense of humor,” the Dave Frohnmayer Chair of Leadership and Law added.

In addition, Strickland helped found the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics in 2000, along with Margaret Hallock and UO President Dave Frohnmayer. He also guided the Wayne Morse Center in planning its 2005-07 theme of inquiry--"Indigenous Peoples: National Policy and International Human Rights," although he was no longer Dean at the time.

Strickland had a remarkable professional career. He wove together a history of achievement as a dean, a law professor, legal historian, and art collector. As a preeminent scholar and author in the field of Native American law, he has published more than 47 books and 208 essays, articles, and book chapters. He acted as editor-in-chief of the 1982 revision of Cohen’s Handbook on Federal Indian Law, as well as a member of the editorial board in the 2005 revision.

“Rennard has been our visionary, our statesman, our wise elder, and our chief and he will always have our gratitude for all that he has given us,” says Mary Wood, Phillip H. Knight Law Professor and Faculty Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center “He has left a profound legacy for us to carry on.”

RELATED: Remembering Dean Strickland

A legend in the field of legal education, he served as the Dean at four law schools including the University of Tulsa, Southern Illinois University, Oklahoma City University, and the University of Oregon. Strickland was the first and only person to have served as both the President of the Associate of American Law Schools and as the chair of the Law School Admissions Council. He served in a leadership role in the Society of American Law Teachers. He is the only person to have received both the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Award (1979) and the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award (1997).

Howard Arnett, Professor of Practice at Oregon Law, adds, “As Native American himself, Strickland served as a role model and inspiration to the legion of young Native American lawyers who now practice in the field and who teach Indian law at law schools across the country.”

Strickland earned his BA at Northeastern State University before getting his JD from the University of Virginia, MA from the University of Arkansas, and S.J.D. from the University of Virginia. After graduation, Strickland joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law and following it taught law at St. Mary's University, the University of Tulsa, the University of West Florida, the University of Washington, and at the University of Wisconsin. In 1985 he became dean at the Southern Illinois University School of Law and from 1990 to 1995 served as director of the Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy, before becoming professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Rennard Strickland is survived by his sister, Janet Stickland-Gambill and her husband, Major General Bradley Gambill; and by his niece and nephew; and one grand-niece and three grand-nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ruel James Strickland and Adele Tucker Strickland; and his brother, William M. Strickland.

Other readings:

Mary Wood article:  Oregon Law Review

Chadwick Smith, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation, Oregon Law Review