William Laurens Walker ’59

February 11, 1937 – April 13, 2022

William Laurens Walker III, T. Munford Boyd Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law, died peacefully at home on Wednesday April 13, 2022, at the age of 85, of natural causes.

Laurens, also known as Larry, was the only child of the late William Laurens Walker II and Georgia Bassett Walker of Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he was born in 1937. He grew up at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, founded by Reverend Newton Pinckey Walker in 1849, where his father served as President. He was President of his Class, Valedictorian, and voted “Best All Round” at Spartanburg High School, from which he graduated in 1955.

Laurens graduated from Davidson College in 1959 (BA), earned a law degree at Duke University in 1963 (JD), and a masters degree at Harvard Law School in 1970 (SJ.D). At Davidson, he was Editor-in-Chief of the Davidsonian and Phi Beta Kappa. Following law school, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and service in the U.S. Army as an officer, he practiced with the Atlanta firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Later he was counsel to the Atlanta firm Long, Aldridge & Norman and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

He served as the Paul B. Eaton Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, and then joined the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law in 1978. At UVA, he taught civil procedure, complex civil litigation and a seminar on using expert information within the legal system. His early empirical research on procedural justice (with John Thibaut) has been studied and replicated by scholars in law and psychology in the United States and abroad. His casebook (with John Monahan) entitled “Social Science in Law” is used in this country and abroad both as a textbook and reference concerning judicial use of social research. In 1988, he received the Biennial Distinguished Contributions Award from the American Psychology-Law Society for his social scientific studies of the legal process.

Many alumni of the UVA Law School fondly remember his hearty laugh, gentle kindness, and cheerful attitude, as do his former colleagues on the faculty. He was always ready with an encouraging word or light-hearted joke, with a twinkle in his eye. He will be recalled, as former Law School Dean Paul Mahoney put it, “as an energetic and enthusiastic teacher, scholar, and participant in the intellectual life of the Law School,” whose “infectious good humor and openness have been as important as his intellectual contributions.”

He leaves behind his wife of 40 years, Sharon Louise Walker of Charlottesville, Virginia; stepbrother, R. Wiley Bourne Jr. (Elinor) of Kingsport, Tenn.; daughters, Helgi Walker Drummond (Maldwin) of Washington, D.C. and Hobe Sound, Fla.; Margit Walker Nelson (Rob) of Flat Rock, N.C.; and Carina Smith Severance (Ryan) of Sparrows Point, Md. He is survived by his three beloved grandchildren, who loved him equally well in return, William Aaron Sheldon of San Francisco, Calif.; Sarah Christina Sheldon of Boston, Mass.; and Christopher Walker Sheldon of Flat Rock, N.C.

The family gives thanks for the kindness and compassion of the staff at Hospice of the Piedmont, the dedication and love of caregiver extraordinaire Shenise Gray and her team at Peace of Mind Helpers, and the tremendous services rendered by the world-class physicians and staff at UVA Health.

A memorial service will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church at a later date.

Published by Daily Progress on April 15, 2022.