BY MICHAEL QUIRK
Two law professors with a combined 83 years of teaching at The University of Mississippi will retire after this semester.
John Robin Bradley, a native of Inverness, Miss., practiced with Wise, Smith & Carter after graduating from the Ole Miss law school in 1962. After a year with the Jackson firm, Bradley went to work as a corporate in-house lawyer in Yazoo City, Miss. He worked for the Mississippi Chemical Corporation and Coastal Chemicals for two and a half years before joining the Ole Miss faculty in 1966.
After finishing his second semester of law school at the top of his class, Bradley was asked to join the staff after graduation by Bob Farley, then the dean of the law school. Bradley decided to practice law before taking him up on the offer.
“The law school was changing in the middle-1960s. A couple faculty members left because of age and a couple because of (James) Meredith,” Bradley said. “So the faculty was young and forward-thinking. It was an exciting place, and I was happy to have an opportunity to be a part of that.”
Aside from teaching courses on contracts and corporations, Bradley has taught classes on workers’ compensation and wrote a book entitled “Mississippi Workers’ Compensation” in 1996. He writes a new edition annually and plans to continue that after he retires.
Bradley has taught “thousands” of students, including Ronnie Musgrove, Bill Waller and Roger Wicker. Prize-winning author John Grisham’s first class at Ole Miss was Contracts with Bradley, and he later took Workers’ Compensation. Grisham’s son’s first class at the Ole Miss law school also happened to be Contracts with Bradley.
Grisham remembers his days in Bradley’s classes and parallels his own experiences with his son’s.
“(Bradley) has a real keen, sarcastic humor, and we needed laughs,” he said. “My son would call me and tell me Bradley’s one-liners and I would laugh and say, ‘Yup, I heard that one about 30 years ago.’”
Former Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat said he believes Bradley’s teaching will leave a lasting legacy at the university.
“It was a very high-quality experience in his classroom. The lasting impressions students got from him were very positive and that will live on in the lore of the law school,” Khayat said.
In addition to annually updating his books during his retirement, Bradley will teach one Workers Compensation class each spring semester.
No single moment stands out to Bradley in his 47 years of teaching, but one process does.
“What is gratifying is watching students who come in not knowing the subject but then develop a really good touch and understanding with how to use it. The maturation process, that’s what is really gratifying to me,” he said.
Robert Weems, an Ole Miss professor since 1977, will also retire after this semester.
A native of Jackson, Miss., Weems graduated from Millsaps College in 1959 before teaching mathematics at Chastain Junior High School in Jackson.
After two years at Chastain, Weems enrolled at the Ole Miss law school and graduated in August of 1966. Following his graduation, he practiced law in Vicksburg, Miss., for five years as an associate with Brunini, Everett, Grantham and Quin and six years as a partner with Brunini, Everett, Beanland and Wheeless.
In 1977, Weems received a phone call from Khayat, inviting him to join the faculty at the Ole Miss law school.
“There was nobody brighter than Robert Weems in school,” Khayat said. “We knew he enjoyed teaching. He was born to do it, and we at the law school knew that he would add so much.”
With the blessing from his law firm that he could return to work if he did not enjoy teaching, Weems joined the law school as an associate professor. He has taught Wills and Estates, Torts, and Evidence during his 36 years at Ole Miss.
Weems has written seven books on wills and estates, and he has been cited as writing the “Bible on wills and torts” by Khayat. The books have not just been used as a research tool not for lawyers, as Grisham admitted to using them for his upcoming novel, a sequel to “A Time To Kill,” which is scheduled for an October release.
“(The novel) is set in a fictional county in Mississippi about a will contest that goes to trial, and I had to buy a new Weems book to research for the novel,” he said. “Will contests can get complicated, so you really have to do your research. Bob’s book is the Bible of wills and estates in Mississippi.”
A six-time law school teacher of the year and 1994 university teacher of the year, Weems has been widely recognized for his teaching at Ole Miss. He described his in-class teaching style as the Socratic method where he asks a lot of questions and holds class discussions. His teaching was not lost on Khayat, who would periodically stop in on Weems’ classes.
Grisham said that when he was a “rookie” lawyer, he would continuously go back to his notes from Wills and Estates.
“He did a great job, and (Weems’ students) were so well-rounded because of the job he did,” Grisham said. “He was funny, too, because he could tell a lot of stories about wills and will contests.”
Despite writing several well-received books, Weems hope that the years of teaching are what will carry on.
“I’m most proud of being an effective law teacher. There have been several things written about my books, but I’m much more proud of my teaching,” he said.
Weems will continue to teach one Wills and Estates class each spring at Ole Miss. When asked what other plans he has after he retires, Weems laughed and said, “To do whatever I want to do.”