Dictionary of Virginia Biography


Hardy Cross Dillard (23 October 1902–12 May 1982), legal educator and judge of the International Court of Justice, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was the son of James Hardy Dillard and his second wife, Avarene Lippincott Budd Dillard. In 1913 the family moved to Charlottesville, where his father served as president of the Negro Rural School Fund, Inc., Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, and as a director (and later president) of the John F. Slater Fund, both organizations devoted to improving educational opportunities for African Americans in the rural South. Dillard graduated from Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg and attended the University of Virginia during the 1919–1920 school year. Appointed to the United States Military Academy, he received a B.S. in 1924. The army, which then had a surplus of officers, allowed him to resign his commission almost immediately. He returned to the University of Virginia to study law and graduated in 1927. Dillard taught law there for two years, then practiced for a year in New York City. In 1930 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace awarded him a fellowship in international law, which enabled him to study at the University of Paris for the succeeding academic year. There he met Janet Gray Schauffler, an art student from New York, whom he married in that city on 16 November 1934. They had one son and one daughter.

Dillard returned to the University of Virginia as acting assistant professor of law in 1931 and commenced a long and distinguished career there. By the end of the decade he had served a three-year stint as the assistant dean of the law department and been promoted to full professor. From 1939 to 1941 he also directed the university's Institute of Public Affairs, which brought together speakers of differing ideologies to discuss issues of the day. A popular teacher who specialized in contracts and international law, Dillard brought a dramatic flair to the classroom. He freely incorporated aphorisms and anecdotes as well as references to such popular and seemingly irrelevant figures as Yogi Berra and ZaSu Pitts into lectures on legal theory and practice. Dillard became the James Monroe Professor of Law in 1958 and served as dean of the law school from 1963 to 1968.

During World War II, Dillard served as an army officer, much of the time as an instructor at the Charlottesville-based School of Military Government, established in 1942 to prepare military and civilian personnel to govern occupied territory. He ended the war with the rank of colonel, having advised deployments in Europe, the China theater, and Japan, and received a Legion of Merit with oak-leaf cluster and a Bronze Star. After the war Dillard spent a year as director of studies of the new National War College in Washington, D.C. He subsequently maintained close ties to the military establishment as an army reservist (with several stints of active duty in the Judge Advocate General's School) and as a member of the board of consultants of the National War College and of the advisory council of the United States Air Force Academy. In 1950 he was a legal consultant for the United States High Commissioner for Germany.

A strong proponent of public education, Dillard crossed swords several times during the 1950s and 1960s with Virginia's conservative political establishment. As lead counsel for the respondent in Almond v. Day (1955), an early showdown over the state government's response to Brown v. Board of Education, he helped convince the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that state tuition aid to students attending private schools violated the state constitution. After a convention called the following year amended the constitution to allow for tuition vouchers, Dillard sustained his opposition and published his objections to the "freedom of choice" plans that emerged late in the 1950s and 1960s. Dillard's position as dean of the state's most prominent law school lent him substantial authority, in spite of his relatively liberal views. In 1965 he served on the state's Magna Carta Commission (which he joked may have been Virginia's attempt to claim authorship of the document) and in 1968 on the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Revision.

Dillard's most enduring legacy was in the field of international law. Building on his teaching career and his experiences as a military government administrator, he began to publish and speak extensively on the subject. Lectures he delivered in 1957 at The Hague, Netherlands, were published that same year as Some Aspects of Law and Diplomacy. He argued against those who derided the potential for the law to resolve international disputes. Viewed as a flexible and constantly evolving set of principles, the law, Dillard argued, could complement and reinforce diplomatic efforts by providing a space where abstract concepts of justice could wrestle with concrete dilemmas. In 1962 he was elected to a one-year term as president of the American Society of International Law. He also served on the society's executive committee and on the advisory board of the American Journal of International Law for most of the decade.

In 1969 Dillard was elected to the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, headquartered in The Hague. He joined fourteen other members of the ICJ, or World Court, in adjudicating disputes between sovereign states and rendering advisory opinions for the UN and its affiliate organizations. At the time the court faced widespread criticism that its slow, deliberative pace, arcane procedures, and small caseload negated its relevance. Dillard admitted to some initial skepticism of the court's internal process of decision-making, and he joined its rules committee (beginning in 1975 as chair) in the hopes of reforming its internal procedures and increasing its workload. During his nine-year term the court revised its rules twice, most notably to facilitate recourse to smaller arbitral panels that the court sponsored. Dillard wrote opinions for or added his name to six judgments by the court and three advisory opinions. His concurring opinion in the Western Sahara advisory case (1975), in which he wrote the dictum "It is for the people to determine the destiny of the territory and not the territory the destiny of the people," was regarded as his most influential contribution to international case law.

Dillard's wife died on 19 July 1970. In Richmond on 9 December 1972 he married Valgerdur Nielsen Dent, a divorcée with two children. After his term on the World Court ended in February 1979, he returned to Charlottesville. Hardy Cross Dillard died of cardiac arrest at a Charlottesville hospital on 12 May 1982 and was buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery. The University of Virginia School of Law named a prize and scholarship in his honor.


Sources Consulted:
Biographies in Commonwealth 30 (Apr. 1963): 12, Richard Lee Morton, comp., Virginia Lives: The Old Dominion Who's Who (1964), 273, New Yorker (28 Mar. 1970), 27–28, Daniel John Meador, ed., Hardy Cross Dillard: Writings and Speeches (1995), 1–27 (frontispiece portrait), and Arthur Eyffinger, The International Court of Justice, 1946–1996 (1996), 275; tribute in Virginia Law Review 56 (1970): 1–11; first marriage in Charlottesville Daily Progress, 17 Nov. 1934; second marriage in Richmond City Marriage Register (1972); Hardy Cross Dillard Papers, Arthur J. Morris Law Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.; selected bibliography in Virginia Journal of International Law 8 (1968): unnumbered pages before 185; Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, International Court of Justice Report 1975 (16 Oct.), 116–126 (quotation on 122); obituaries in Charlottesville Daily Progress, 13, 14 May 1982, and Richmond News Leader, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Washington Post, all 14 May 1982; memorials and tributes in American Journal of International Law 76 (1982): 595–597, Virginia Journal of International Law 23 (1983): 363–394, and Virginia Law Review 69 (1983): 805–817.


Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by William Bland Whitley.

How to cite this page:
William Bland Whitley,"Hardy Cross Dillard (1902–1982)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Dillard_Hardy_Cross, accessed [today's date]).


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