John Webster Wade, one of the outstanding men in the history of Nashville-an unsung hero at home, but a nationally acclaimed scholar and teacher in the world of law--died recently at age eighty- three without sufficient public notice and recognition. During his life, he had more influence on the shaping of the legal system and the law in Tennessee than any politician or judge, and he had as much influence on the national legal system as any other Tennessean of his generation.
As a young Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant in World War II, he guided troops through the bloody battles of the Marshall Islands, Saipan, and Iwo Jima in the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star with two Presidential citations for uncommon bravery in battle. He was a tough-minded Marine who in civilian life was a very gentle man. He had the quiet courage, dignity, and modesty that it takes to inspire others and make them want to work together, a rare combination of qualities.
After the war, he returned to private life and built Vanderbilt Law School into a great national institution. He built its reputation, its building, its faculty, and its student body. He was the very best that the legal profession had to offer. He left a rich legacy. The lawyers and judges in our part of the country who were his students, and law teachers and students in many places in the country where he lectured, will revere his memory for years to come.
John Wade was the Dean of the Vanderbilt Law School from 1952 to 1972, and he was a law teacher and scholar for more than fifty years. He moved to Nashville in 1947 after Vanderbilt reopened the doors of its law school after the war. His high school and college days were spent in Oxford, Mississippi. His father was a circuit judge who died when young John Wade was fifteen years old. Dean Wade considered a career as a history professor, but upon graduation from the University of Mississippi at the top of his class, he entered law school there. He compiled an academic record there that no one has ever equaled and probably no one ever will.
Dean Wade's accomplishments at the Vanderbilt Law School and in law reform in Tennessee are too numerous to recount in detail. Suffice it to say, as examples, that over the strong opposition of many alumni he integrated the Law School in the 1950s, long before other parts of the university. It was the first private law school in the South to do so. He was an early promoter of the interests of women in the law, due in part to the great influence of Mary Moody Wade, his charming, beautiful, and accomplished wife of forty-eight years.
Gilbert S. Merritt,
Dean John W. Wade,
48 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol48/iss3/2