In Memoriam: William Charles Powers Jr.

In Memoriam: William Charles Powers Jr.

William Charles Powers Jr. passed away on March 10 at the age of 72. A member of ALI since 1992, Professor Powers served twice with Michael D. Green of Wake Forest University School of Law as Co-Reporters on Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Apportionment of Liability and Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Liability for Physical Harm. Prior to his death, Professor Powers was named to serve as a Reporter for a third time on of one of ALI’s newest projects, the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Concluding Provisions, with Professors Green and Nora Freeman Engstrom of Stanford Law School.

“Bill really had the ideal makeup for an ALI Reporter—he was smart as a whip, but he was flexible of mind,” said Professor Green. “There were times when we were working on a Section of the Restatement when he would come into a project meeting on one side of an issue with one idea, and the discussion with the project participants would take us in a different direction. He would realign his perspective as the discussion informed and provided additional details on the issues that we had been thinking about.” Green added: “He was also a precise, careful, and rigorous wordsmith.”

Professors Powers and Green were jointly named the R. Ammi Cutter Chair from 2001 to 2006, for their work as Reporters on the Restatement Third, Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm. Established in honor of the former Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and President of ALI from 1976 to 1980, the Cutter Chair is occupied by an active Reporter of proven effectiveness.

"I think to be a good Reporter you have to be courteous, kind, and patient and Bill was uniformly that,” said Professor Green. "And he was just a great person to collaborate with for almost two decades.”

The second-longest serving president of the University of Texas at Austin, serving from 2006 to 2015, Professor Powers was a member of the university’s law school faculty for over 40 years, serving as dean for six of those years.

“Bill was an eloquent and fierce champion for UT students, faculty and staff. Never was this more evident than in the early and mid-2010s, when Bill put every ounce of himself into defending the soul of our university,” said President Gregory L. Fenves in a statement issued by the university. “For 40 years on these Forty Acres, Bill Powers embodied the UT motto, ‘What starts here changes the world.’ He lived those words. But even more importantly, he made sure legions of other Longhorns did too. We’ll miss him dearly.”

As president of UT, Professor Powers oversaw the establishment of two of the university’s 18 colleges and schools. He also administered the completion of a $3 billion capital campaign, the largest ever undertaken at a public university in Texas. He played a key role in the launching of the Longhorn Network with ESPN.

In 2003, he received the ABA’s Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award, formed “to honor those law professors who have shown commitment to the advancement of justice, scholarship, and the legal profession, demonstrated by outstanding contributions to the fields of tort, trial practice, or insurance law.”  In 2012, he and fellow ALI Reporter Michael Green were awarded UC Berkeley’s John G. Fleming Memorial Prize for Torts Scholarship for their work on Restatement Third of Torts.

He served as Chair of the Special Investigation Committee, Enron Corp. which guided federal investigators through the financial deception that led to the failure of Enron, the Houston-based company that went bankrupt in December 2001. In 2002, the committee produced its findings in what is now known as the “Powers Report.”

Professor Powers received his B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1967, and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1973. From 1973 to 1974 he was law clerk to Judge Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

He is survived by his wife, Kim, his five children, and grandchildren.

The Texas State Senate honored Professor Powers with the adoption of SR No. 420 and HR No. 999