Maryland Carey Law

In Memoriam: Oscar S. Gray

Jacob A. France Professor Emeritus of Torts

One of the nation’s preeminent torts scholars and a beloved faculty member, Oscar S. Gray died Oct. 3, 2019. “Oscar was an extremely impressive and special  person,” says Dean Donald Tobin, “who had a huge impact on Maryland Carey Law and U.S. tort law.” Gray was the son of a furrier whose initial shop was located on Paca St. in Baltimore. He decided to attend Yale Law School because, as he said in a 2011 interview, “law [is] a mechanism for bringing about social change, and … a way—perhaps the most striking way—of fighting for the righting of wrongs.” At Yale he was introduced to torts by Harry Shulman and Fleming James and worked as a research assistant with Fowler Harper.

After his 1951 law school graduation, Gray began his career as an attorney-adviser at the Legal Adviser’s Office of the U.S. Department of State. From 1957 until 1971, he was vice president and director of a nuclear materials startup company and served as special counsel to the President’s Task Force on Communications Policy. He was also acting director of the Office of Environmental Impact for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gray joined the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Law in 1971, actively teaching until 1996. He published the second and third editions of the definitive six-volume treatise on tort law, Harper, James and Gray on Torts, and was a co-editor of the influential torts casebook, Cases and Materials on Torts. During the mid-1990s, he served as chair of the AALS Section on Tort and Compensation Systems. In 2010, Gray received the William L. Prosser Award for lifetime service from the section.

Prof. Don Gifford, who was dean of the law school in the 1990s and is the current Jacob A. France Professor of Torts, remembers his friend and colleague as a “steadfast figure of uncompromising integrity and commitment to scholarly excellence and precision in the use of language.”

Gray was a dedicated fan of baseball and his Baltimore Orioles. For decades, he “scored” each game he attended with pencil and paper. He also enjoyed chamber music and opera and was a serious wine collector.

In 2018, Gray celebrated 50 years of marriage with Dr. Sheila Hafter Gray, a leader in the psychoanalytic education and accreditation community. She joined the Maryland Carey Law community to memorialize her husband at an event at the law school in December.