IN MEMORIAM: ALICE FLEETWOOD BARTEE
(This memorial was published in PS: Political Science April 2010)
Dr. Alice Fleetwood Bartee served on the faculty of the Department of Political Science at Missouri State University from 1973 until her retirement in 2008. During her 35 years of service, she compiled an outstanding record in the areas of teaching, research, and service. I was privileged to be her colleague for almost 20 years. A year and a half ago, faculty, administrators, students, and members of the community gathered to celebrate her legacy at a touching retirement dinner. A few weeks ago, many of those same people came together again to celebrate her life, a life that was truly remarkable.
Born in Statesboro, Georgia, in 1938, Alice was raised in Thomasville, Georgia, where she graduated from high school as class valedictorian and went on to a college career in the Ivy League at Barnard College, where she was inspired by professor of government Phoebe Morrison. She earned a B.A. degree in government from Barnard and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University with a focus on constitutional law and judicial behavior. At Columbia, Alice was indebted to Professor Louis Lusky of the School of Law and, especially, her mentor and dissertation advisor, Professor Alan Westin. She taught at the Lenox School for Girls in New York City, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Drury University before coming to MSU.
Dr. Bartee very early earned a reputation as an exceptional and caring teacher and advisor to students. After University President Duane Meyer appointed her as University Prelaw Advisor, she particularly focused on encouraging and helping students with an interest in a career in law. Her countless hours of advising and letters of recommendation helped many advisees gain admittance to law schools all over the country, from coast to coast, including Harvard and Stanford. Margaret Holden, the chief administrative law judge in Springfield, recently stated that “hundreds of people would not be lawyers had it not been for her.” They justified her confidence again and again in their successful careers as attorneys, some becoming federal attorneys and judges. She received the first Excellence in Teaching Award to be given by the SMSU (now MSU) Foundation in 1984.
From her basic, 100-level American government courses to her advanced courses in constitutional law, judicial behavior, and civil liberties, Dr. Bartee challenged students to think for themselves about the functions of government. In all of her classes, she explored the nuances of the judicial process, especially the moral and ethical, as well as legal, aspects of contemporary issues.
Dr. Bartee’s research interests followed her teaching interests as she researched and published a trilogy of books on controversial legal and moral issues as dealt with by the Supreme Court. In 1984 she authored Cases Lost, Causes Won: The Supreme Court and the Judicial Process; in 1992, Litigating Morality: American Legal Thought and Its English Roots (with her husband, Dr. Wayne C. Bartee, a historian); and in 2006, Privacy Rights: Cases Lost and Causes Won Before the Supreme Court. She also presented papers at meetings of the American Society for Legal History and elsewhere. Upon her death, the local paper noted that “her work may not be well-known beyond the campus of Missouri State University.” This statement is patently false. While it is true that Alice was not personally well-known outside of Springfield, professionally, her scholarship was broadly respected. From her first book in 1984 to her last book in 2006, scholars of the judicial process took notice. Robert Carp, professor of political science at the University of Houston, noted that Cases Lost, Causes Won “combines the best of highly-objective, traditional scholarship, with a keen eye to speaking to both the hearts and the heads of top-level undergraduate students. She writes in a clear, compelling manner that manages to combine scholarship with first-rate intellectual enjoyment. My students really love her books.” Lee Epstein, the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law, observed that “Privacy Rights, the last installment of Alice Fleetwood Bartee’s trilogy on the judicial process may be the best yet. It certainly couldn’t be more timely. The topics Bartee covers–birth control, gay rights, abortion, and the right to die–not only continue to get play in the courts, but they also remain at the core of contemporary political discourse. I highly recommend Privacy Rights to all readers interested in the genesis, evolution, and modern-day incarnations of debates over the right to privacy.”
In addition to her university-wide advisement of pre-law students and political science majors, Dr. Bartee served the university in many capacities, including as chair of the Student-Faculty Judicial Commission and member of the Faculty Senate, the Provost’s Committee on Revision of Records, and numerous committees within the political science department and the College of Humanities and Public Affairs. She initiated and, for most of her career, sponsored the first undergraduate student chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, the national legal honors society.
Alice taught Sunday School classes at University Heights Baptist Church, and she served as the first woman on the state council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri. Alice also involved herself in the public affairs of the local community, giving speeches, encouraging local candidates, and writing in behalf of causes in which she passionately believed. In 1992, the Greene County Bar Association recognized her accomplishments by giving her its respected annual Liberty Bell Award–the first woman to receive the award.
Dr. Bartee also managed to find time for family. She is survived by Wayne Bartee, her husband of 47 years, and two sons: Clark, an attorney, and Fleetwood, an officer in a Springfield business firm. During the early days of her career, she moved successfully into a field of study then usually reserved for men. She was among the first women to gain the rank of full professor at MSU. She remained particularly sensitive to the challenges faced by professional women and, therefore, served as a mentor and model for women faculty and attorneys.
Alice dedicated Privacy Rights to Wayne, “who makes the impossible, possible.” A true testament to a love of 47 years. I believe that Alice unknowingly penned an epistle to her own life as well. In the previous paragraphs, there are a lot of “firsts.” It was Alice Bartee who made things possible; first for herself, then for the women professionals who followed her, and then, and most important of all, for her students. More than any book or award, in law, in government, and in life, they are her living legacy. Sui generis.
George E. Connor
Professor of Political Science
Missouri State University