In Memoriam: Christopher Fairfield Edley Jr., 1953-2024

Christopher Fairfield Edley Jr., a prominent figure in law, educational policy, public service, and civil rights, passed away on May 10. He was 71 years old.

Professor Edley’s career in higher education spanned over three decades. He served as a professor at Harvard Law School for over 23 years, where he taught courses on a wide variety of topics including civil rights and administrative, environmental, and federal law. He also co-founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project. In 2004, he transitioned to the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as dean of he School of Law until 2013. He also served as interim dean of Berkeley’s School of Education from 2021 to 2023.

In addition to his work in academia, Professor Edley had an extensive background in public service. He held budgetary and legislative positions for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He also held senior advising roles for five presidential campaigns, including for President Barack Obama, his former law school student at Harvard. He later served on President Obama’s transition board, overseeing education, immigration, and health initiatives.

​​“Chris Edley had a brilliant mind and a kind, good heart that he put to use to build a better, fairer, more just America,” said President Clinton. “From his groundbreaking academic career to his service in multiple key roles in my administration, he always believed that law and policy are ultimately about people. He mastered the minute details but never lost sight of the big picture — giving more people the chance to live their best lives. He is gone far too soon, but his legacy will endure.”

Professor Edley received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He held a master’s degree and a law degree from Harvard University.

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