An Uncommon Bond: Remembering an old friend

By Andrew Taylor-Troutman, Guest Columnist
Posted 11/8/19

My recently deceased friend was known to play upon his famous namesake: Bond…James Bond. But he preferred to be known simply as Jim.

Upon his retirement as the dean of the Seattle University …

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An Uncommon Bond: Remembering an old friend

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Posted

My recently deceased friend was known to play upon his famous namesake: Bond…James Bond. But he preferred to be known simply as Jim.

Upon his retirement as the dean of the Seattle University School of Law, this James E. Bond gave an interview for a local newspaper. In one of the questions, Dean Bond was asked to recite his favorite lawyer joke: “It was so cold today that I saw a lawyer with both hands in his own pockets!”

Jim knew how to deliver a good line.

At his retirement, he was honored at an assembly with other former deans. The subject of his speech was posed as a question: “What makes a law school?”

Jim proceeded to acknowledge that the library was important, but it was not the books that made a law school. The classrooms and administrative offices were important, but it was not the buildings that made a law school. Here’s Dean Bond in his own words:

“What makes a law school? What is it? It is people. It is people like you and me. People who have shared a common experience though each of us has lived that experience uniquely.”

As a pastor, my education and experience are in a different field — although there are plenty of jokes about preachers as well! But I would submit that Jim’s answer also applies to the question, “What makes a community?”

It is the people.

What else can we learn from this James Bond?

Jim authored a book titled “No Easy Walk to Freedom” about the ratification of the 14th Amendment, which addressed the equal rights and protections of former slaves. What’s notable to me is that, in one of his other books, “The Art of Judging,” Jim argued for what he termed judicial craftsmanship over judicial statesmanship. He argued the Supreme Court should interpret the original text of the Constitution rather than advance progressive ideas of the moral good. This would seem to place him in a certain political camp…

But in 1964, Jim traveled to Mississippi for Freedom Summer to register black voters. He saw that, for his fellow American citizens of color, this truly was “no easy walk to freedom.” Jim saw that making distinctions among people led to oppression and evil, and that truth transcends any political ideology.

But I’m not here to bring the gavel down. Instead, remember what Jim said: “People share a common experience though each of us has lived that experience uniquely.” As an illustration of that common bond, here’s a lean story of spiritual substance from the man’s life:

When he had partially retired and was teaching undergraduate students at the University of Seattle, James E. Bond would leave his lovely wife early in the morning and, each weekday, the prestigious dean of the law school would sit and share coffee with…the janitor.

That story preaches itself.

So, let me end with Jim’s own words from a different speech. Here’s how Dean Bond ended the commencement address to law graduates in 1993:

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, go out of this place and make a good living; but more importantly, make a good life.”

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the poet pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and the author of the book “Gently Between the Words.”

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