Law professor's trumpet no longer sounds

Remembering Stanton Wheeler.

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Stanton Wheeler loved jazz, sports, and the sociology of law. View full image

Stanton Wheeler, the Ford Foundation Professor Emeritus of Law, was listening to Louis Armstrong’s "I’ve Got It Bad, and That Ain’t Good" when he died on December 7 from complications related to a cardiovascular condition. Wheeler, 77 at his death, was a jazz trumpeter who played with numerous ensembles at Yale. He "taught, with his horn, generations of us how to swing,” says his friend and jazz partner Craig Levine.

Jazz, and a turn for improvisation, helped lead Wheeler to his academic career. Born in Pomona, California, in 1930, he had leaned towards a career in music, often traveling to Watts to play with African American jazzmen. But as an undergraduate at Pomona College, he also studied the sociology of jazz, and he went on to the University of Washington for a doctorate in sociology. Intrigued by the ways legal issues play out in and influence society, Wheeler helped create the new field of sociology of law. He "turned the focus away from rules and judicial doctrines toward empirical studies of how legal actors actually behave,” said Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh at a graveside ceremony on December 12 at the Grove Street Cemetery.

Wheeler joined the Law School faculty in 1968, one of the first tenured professors there without a law degree. His research specialty was white-collar crime. "He asked how to further better social control of white-collar crime,” said Koh, "by looking closely at why middle-class people actually commit crimes and how judges choose to sentence them." Wheeler and his wife, Marcia Chambers, served as master and associate master of Morse College from 1995 to 2001. An avid golfer, basketball player, and sports fan, Wheeler chaired Yale’s faculty committee on athletics and oversaw the university’s NCAA recertification. A memorial jazz concert in his honor is planned for the spring. 


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