John O. Honnold Jr., 95; a Penn law professor who played an active role in 20th century events

John O. Honnold Jr. was active in national politics and trade.
John O. Honnold Jr. was active in national politics and trade.
Posted: February 04, 2011

During the hunt for U.S. communists after World War II, John O. Honnold Jr. was one of eight University of Pennsylvania law professors who signed a statement against the proposed Subversive Activities Control Act of 1948.

During the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, Mr. Honnold was a Delaware County delegate who later accused the Chicago police of reacting violently to street demonstrations there.

Yet Mr. Honnold was better known for something less eye-catching but more far-reaching.

Penn has credited him with drafting the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, agreed to in Vienna.

Commenting on his death, Penn called him "the father of the Vienna Convention."

On Friday, Jan. 21, Mr. Honnold, 95, a University of Pennsylvania law teacher from 1946 to 1969 and from 1974 until he retired in 1984, died at Crosslands, the retirement community near Kennett Square where he had lived since 1994.

A resident of Swarthmore since 1946, he was William A. Schnader Professor of Commercial Law at his retirement, and continued teaching as an emeritus professor until 1993.

In 1948, Mr. Honnold and his colleagues opposed the Mundt-Nixon bill, named for Sen. Karl E. Mundt (R., S.D.) and Rep. Richard M. Nixon (R., Calif.).

"Under its terms, groups of loyal American liberals, radicals, and other nonconformists could appropriately be designated 'Communist-front organizations,' " their statement read.

"As such, they would be required to register with the Attorney General," among other restrictions.

"Adoption of the Mundt-Nixon bill thus would subvert the very foundation of constitutional government."

The statement ran as a letter to the editor in the Evening Bulletin and in The Inquirer, where an editor's comment above the statement read:

"Although the Mundt-Nixon bill presumably has been shelved for the time being, the principles involved undoubtedly will be debated for years to come."

In June 1963, Mr. Honnold was among 46 lawyers from across the nation, including the president of the American Bar Association, who called on Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to abide by a U.S. District Court order against blocking the registration of two African Americans at the University of Alabama.

Wallace went through with his storied stand in the schoolhouse door.

A month later, Mr. Honnold was among the 103 attorneys who organized the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which, The Inquirer reported, had been "formed at President [John F.] Kennedy's suggestion to help in the racial emergency."

His son, Edward, said Mr. Honnold was chief counsel in the summer of 1965 for the Mississippi office of that committee.

In 1968, Mr. Honnold was interviewed after returning from the Chicago convention, where he was a delegate committed to the failed nomination of Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy (D., Minn.) and where his son, a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., was a spectator.

"I suppose there was deliberate provocation" by demonstrators outside the convention, Mr. Honnold told The Inquirer.

"Some hoped to provoke police into excessive reaction. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. I hate to think how many revolutionaries were created in Chicago."

After representing the United States at the International Conference on the Unification of Commercial Law at the Hague in 1964, Mr. Honnold took a Penn Law leave of absence from 1969 to 1974 and lived in New York City.

"When the United Nations established a Commission on International Trade Law in 1969," a Penn spokesman wrote in biographical notes, "the secretary-general asked Honnold to be chief of the legal staff."

Mr. Honnold, the Penn notes state, "established the organizational framework" for "addressing the international sale of goods."

Born in Kansas, Ill., Mr. Honnold graduated from Paris (Ill.) High School and earned a bachelor's degree in economics and government at the University of Illinois in 1936 and a law degree from Harvard University in 1939, where he was an editor of the law review.

After working briefly at a New York City law firm and before joining the Penn faculty, Mr. Honnold was a lawyer for five years in Washington for the Securities and Exchange Commission and for the Office of Price Administration.

Besides his Penn responsibilities, Mr. Honnold taught summer sessions at Stanford University, the University of Utah, and the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Austria.

In 1958, he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris on a Fulbright Senior Research Scholarship.

In 1982 and 1983, he held an Arthur Goodhart Professorship in the Science of Law at Cambridge University.

In 1997, the Pace University School of Law gave him an honorary doctorate of laws.

News reports state that he also earned a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Theberg Prize for Private International Law.

Mr. Honnold was a director of the American Friends Service Committee and a member of its executive committee.

Besides his son, Mr. Honnold is survived by his wife, Annamarie; a daughter, Heidi Spencer; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A memorial was set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the William Penn Room at Crosslands.


Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|