It is with bittersweet thoughts that I announce the retirement of the Society’s long-time Executive Director, David T. Pride. True to his commitment until the very end, David has also helped us to secure a successor whom I believe will be a perfect fit for the Society and the Court: James Duff. Jim, a long-time member of the Society, will assume office on February 1st as David retires.
Many of you know Jim, or know of him, by virtue of his long affiliation with the Court, the Society and the whole of the federal judiciary. I will give a longer account of his impressive career later in this letter. But first, we should reflect upon the exceptional tenure of our dear friend, out-going Executive Director David Pride.
That this is an organization where staff tenures are more often measured not in years, but in decades, is a testament to the loyalty that David has inspired. It is appropriate to recount some of the Society’s many accomplishments under his leadership.
David has served the Society nobly since joining its staff in 1979, rising to the post of Executive Director in 1987. Working closely with then-President Justin Stanley, he oversaw the creation of the Society’s endowment. Today, that endowment funds and assures the longevity of the Society’s programs and undertakings, and – indeed – our overall mission.
When Justin was succeeded by Leon Silverman, Leon and David worked to institute many of the Society’s long-standing programs: the National Heritage Lecture, the Erwin Griswold Prize Lecture, and a recurring lecture series at the Court. At the close of Leon’s tenure, David quietly raised an endowment to fund the lecture series, and persuaded the Executive Committee to name it in Leon’s honor. David and Leon also worked to provide funding for an expansion of the Journal of Supreme Court History to three issues annually; creation of the Annual Fund; and acquisition of the Society’s headquarters at Opperman House.
My previous law partner and mentor, Frank Jones, succeeded Leon. Frank did not hesitate to look to David to help him usher the Society into its next phase of accomplishment. Frank and David saw to the completion of a 29-year research project—the Documentary History of the Supreme Court’s first decade. With the invaluable leadership and remarkable energy of Ralph Lancaster, the Society also mounted a successful campaign to secure Congressional passage of the John Marshall Commemorative Coin Bill, which yielded $2.6 million for the Society’s endowment. Once again, when Frank stepped down as President, David quietly raised an endowment to fund a permanent program named in Frank’s honor—the Frank C. Jones Supreme Court Reenactment series.
Ralph Lancaster succeeded Frank as President and continued to rely upon David to guide the Society into the future. When the Court announced its first major renovation project since 1935, Ralph and David worked together to raise funds for a new Gift Shop that would be in keeping with the architectural fabric of the Supreme Court Building. Ultimately, their efforts produced a Gift Shop that pleases both the Court and the Society.
Ralph was, in turn, succeeded as President by Greg Joseph—the Society’s current Chairman of the Board. Greg placed the same trust in David as had his predecessors. When Greg conceived a new fund-raising venue for the Society in the form of the New York Gala, he relied upon David to marshal the Society’s resources to bring the Gala to fruition. Held every other year, it has produced important infusions for the endowment and other reserves.
When I succeeded Greg, I inherited a Society that was debt-free, housed in its own headquarters, and funded by a substantial endowment and other reserves. We also had a robust array of programs, and publications. Notwithstanding the pandemic, we have a Society that is stable and secure, thanks to David’s imaginative leadership and his conservative management of our resources. Stated simply, David Pride has built the Supreme Court Historical Society into what it is today. He has served us for more than 40 years and we are the better for it.
As we enter a new era of leadership, I am equally confident that the Society will be in fine hands. As many of you know, Jim Duff has had a long and distinguished connection with the Court, beginning with service as aide to Chief Justice Warren Burger. He subsequently served as Administrative Assistant (a post now referred to as “Counselor to the Chief Justice”) for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Later, he served two non-consecutive terms as Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts – all of them. Appointed initially by Chief Justice Roberts in 2006, he returned to that post in 2015 when Chief Justice Roberts requested that he return. In the interim, Jim served as Chief Executive and President of Washington’s Newseum.
In addition, Jim has had a distinguished career in private law practice, including service as managing partner of the Washington office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. He also teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University, as an adjunct professor. He was named the Peter Mullen Professor of Law at Georgetown University for the fall of 2014 after previously serving as the first lecturer of the Giles Seminar at Georgetown. Not least, he has served on the Executive Committee of the Society.
In short, Jim brings a truly admirable set of credentials to the Society. I am sure that in the weeks and months ahead you will each come to know him better and recognize the extraordinary fit and opportunities he brings to our Society. David leaves an impressive legacy, and I know that the Membership will extend to him the same degree of support and engagement that David has enjoyed so much.