Monday, January 27, 2003

Between Compulsion and A Brave Respect

In 1959, John Bellairs and Al Myers went from being friends at Notre Dame to friends at the University of Chicago - John studying English and Myers in pursuit of his MBA.  Myers doesn't have as clear a memory of the two's Chicago days as he does their time in South Bend but can testify that Bellairs "worked his tail off".

Myers did share one story from their days in Chicago that doesn't concern Bellairs at all.

"The story was conveyed to Bellairs by one of his professors - one of the heavy hitters in the English Department at the time. The story is too good to die with me, but its only relationship to John is that the professor had recovered sufficiently from the experience to tell it to his class, and John had passed it on with relish to me.

Many years previously, the professor, then a young instructor at the university, was invited to a luncheon that was also attended by the mother of the notorious Nathan Leopold, who was one of the participants in the famous Leopold and Loeb thrill murder of Bobby Franks in the 1920s. Their murder trial of course was the last case defended by Clarence Darrow and was the subject of the book and movie Compulsion.

Even after the murder the Leopolds continued to be major benefactors of the University. Needless to say, the murder case was a taboo subject with Mrs. Leopold. The professor was well aware of this, but he noticed that throughout the luncheon, Mrs. Leopold became progressive colder and finally quite frigid toward him. The professor was rather upset by this and later asked a friend why this might be.

'Maybe it has something to do with the fact that throughout the luncheon you addressed her as Mrs. Loeb!' replied the friend.

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