Dean Brinkley Reflects on Former N.C. Senator Tony Rand ’64’s Leadership (1939-2020)

May 4, 2020

The following email message from Dean Martin H. Brinkley ’92 was shared with the law school community on Saturday, May 2, 2020.

“Learning to Live with Passion”
Anthony Eden Rand ’64
(1 September 1939 – 1 May 2020)

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Dear Friend of Carolina Law:

In recent months, after Tony’s tracheotomy made talking hard, ours was a texting relationship. Last September, when he was hospitalized at the Lineberger Cancer Center, this was our exchange:

Me:  “Are they releasing you into the wild today, and if so, at what time will the spectacle occur?”

Tony:  “They say it will occur, but the press needs time to foregather.”

Last Wednesday, near the end of the sacred hour I customarily devote to the health-giving properties of bourbon, I found myself gazing at a tumbler from which the tide of prosperity had, inexplicably, receded. Somehow my thoughts turned to Tony. A little voice said it was time for a text. 

Me:  “Are you making it? Our incoming class is the best in law school history. LSAT median is up two points over every previous year, GPA went from 3.63 to 3.69, and we have seat deposits from all of them. You made this possible with your investments in us long ago.”

Tony (after recommending a candidate for admission):  “All I can say is Praise the Lord. Continue to push to the front! Stay safe in all this mess!!!!”

It was to be our last exchange. In the wee small hours of May Day, he was gone. 

The point of this letter is not to offer a biographical sketch of a North Carolina statesman whose Anglophile mother augured his future by naming him for a British prime minister. You can find plenty of that sort of material on the internet.  You can also read the magnificent tribute by UNC General Alumni Association President Douglas D. Dibbert.  

The point is to ask you to join me in a prayer of gratitude.

As a member of the North Carolina Senate from 1981 to 1988 and from 1995 until his retirement in 2009, Anthony Eden Rand did more for the University of North Carolina, and for our law school, than any legislator in state history. Had he been governor, as he should have been, the world would have been a better place.

As a senior at Garner High School, he thought about going to Dartmouth “for reasons I cannot now remember,” he once said in an interview. “That would have been like putting silk hose on a hog.”  Instead, he came to Chapel Hill in the fall of 1957.  Bill Aycock was the new chancellor, and the Tar Heels had just won a national championship. 

“Those seven years were golden,” he said. “To me, Carolina was about learning to live, and to do it with passion. It was about learning to accept people who were far different than me for who they were.” Academics were secondary in his undergraduate years (“I still have a dream that finals are tomorrow, and I really need to buy the book”). It was in law school that Tony found his calling.

He repaid any debt he owed to the “old guard” faculty who had taught him – Maurice Van Hecke, Bob Wettach, Henry Brandis, Frank Hanft, Seymour Wurfel, Dan Dobbs, John Scott, and Albert Coates – in spades. Tony and his brother Walter endowed the Geneva Yeargan Rand Distinguished Professorship, named for their mother. One of the happiest memories of my service as dean is the lunch I had with Tony and Walt, when I introduced them to the holder of their chair – my dear friend and colleague Jeff Hirsch, my first Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, to whom I owe my survival as a greenhorn law school dean.

Tony was primarily responsible for securing the legislative appropriation that supported the addition to Van Hecke-Wettach Hall constructed in the late 1990s under the leadership of Dean Judith Wegner and his law school classmate Marion Cowell. He secured recurring funding for an expansion of the faculty in the early years of Jack Boger’s deanship. As Jack recalled in a note to me yesterday:

In 2006 when I became dean, green as I could be, it was Tony Rand who guided me through the halls of the State Legislative Building, rallied his legislative colleagues to appropriate millions of extra dollars in recurring funds for the law school budget, pressed University leaders on campus to offer additional assistance to his beloved law school, and introduced me around to the thousands of Carolina Law alumni all of whom knew Tony well. He never offered advice that wasn’t entwined in some original, funny metaphor or a wry, droll observation about life, his fellow human beings, or the political process. Tony never once lobbied me to admit a single applicant to Carolina Law except for the child of a nurse or a single parent or a janitor with no other champion. [H]is heart went out to the decent common folk of his State and community, and in both his politics and his personal life he exemplified the spirit of public service most cherished as Carolina Law virtues.

Tony’s passion for the rule of law ignored economic, racial and other systemic barriers. Before joining the UNC Law faculty, my colleague Deborah Weissman, now Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law, was Executive Director of Legal Aid of NC (then called Legal Services of North Carolina). Deborah writes: “Tony was one of the fiercest defenders of law for the poor.  He stood tall and his defense of the program was simply remarkable. I learned so much from him.” She was joined at Legal Services by Professor Beth Posner, then a recent UNC Law graduate. “I assumed that the partnership I saw in Tony and Deborah was ‘normal,’ that of course a public servant would be on the side of our most vulnerable and would work with Legal Services to provide access to justice,” says Beth. “I know now, of course, that their partnership was exceptional. Truly one of the greats who makes me proud of my Carolina Law degree.”

Former Dean Gene Nichol summed it up this way: “Tony was the most effective and committed UNC law school advocate ever to serve in the General Assembly. He was also the most successful and colorful legislator (on any front) I’ve ever known. He could, as he put it about others, ‘talk the birds out of the trees.’ And his sense of humor was unmatched. Literally. They don’t make ’em like Tony Rand anymore.” Indeed.

Tony, beloved friend – from all of us:  Godspeed. The press has foregathered. You are lifted up on our shoulders, in a shower of love and an exaltation of gratitude.

Yours faithfully,

Martin H. Brinkley ’92
Dean and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law