Monday 13 August 2012

Hugo Adam Bedau

One of the world’s great scholars on capital punishment, Hugo Adam Bedau, passed away early this morning. Hugo was Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University for most of his career. He combined first class academic work with great devotion to the campaign to abolish the death penalty, particularly in the United States. His major work, The Death Penalty in America, now in its fourth edition, first appeared in 1964 and had enormous influence on the debate.
He did much to advance the cause of abolition within the United States, although there were many ups and downs in the struggle during his great and distinguished career. In the 1960s, he saw capital punishment come to a halt in the United States. By the early 1970s, the Furman ruling of the Supreme Court created hopes that it was permanently at an end. Then, the death penalty revived, reaching a peak in the late 1990s. Since then, it has continued to decline in the United States, and judicial abolition may not now be too far away. During his last decade, Hugo witnessed important judgments of the Supreme Court that restricted the use of capital punishment.
Hugo celebrated his 75th birthday at my home in the west of Ireland when he attended an international conference on capital punishment hosted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the Université de Paris II in September 2001. We celebrated with champagne and cake and many friends, including Mike Radelet, Roger and Nancy Hood, Sandra Babcock, Nigel Rodley, Christina Cerna, Emmanuel Decaux, Peter Hodgkinson and many others. I last saw Hugo in Boston in late June of this year, when he attended a public symposium organized by two of the United Nations special rapporteurs. Nigel Rodley and I had a wonderful chat with him, reminiscing about human rights activities we had attended together over the years. He was doing poorly, and had not been well for some time. His effort to attend the meeting was remarkable, and this last meeting with him was charming and memorable.
Our sympathies go out to his wife, Constance Putnam, and to the rest of his family.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for your very personal essay about Hugo Adam Bedau, which I've posted on our Facebook page.

Elizabeth, Producer
Execution Watch
KPFT FM 90.1 Houston