Remembering Professor Harold Ford

By Professor Ian Ramsay

On 27 September 2012 Emeritus Professor Harold Ford AM (LLB 1948, LLM 1949, HonLLD 1987) passed away. Neither his keen intellect nor the affection with which he was held had dimmed over the years. Melbourne Law School's JD Harold Ford Scholarships were named after him in recognition of all that he contributed to the Law School and the respect in which he was held by the academy and the profession.

Harold Ford
Professor Harold Ford AM
Born in 1920, Professor Ford enrolled at the University of Melbourne as a 16-year-old in the Articled Clerks' Course. Naval service from 1939 to 1946 interrupted his studies, but he returned to later win the Supreme Court Prize for Articled Clerks in 1948. A year later he became the fifth member of the Law School's full-time academic staff.

In 1960 Professor Ford was appointed Robert Garran Professor of Law in the Australian National University  and Foundation Dean of the Faculty of Law. He returned to Melbourne in 1962 on appointment as Professor of Commercial Law. His main teaching contributions were in trusts and legal persons/company law. Professor Ford became Dean in 1964 (in Sir Zelman Cowen's absence) and again from 1967 to 1973. His deanship saw institution of the Professional Admission Summer School and initiation of moves for the establishment of the Leo Cussen Institute.

Professor Ford's contributions not only to corporate law teaching, but also to corporate law reform have been enormous. He served in 1963–64 on the Manning Committee on Bills of Exchange. He was one of a small team which in 1974–75 prepared the National Companies Bill. In 1976–78 he chaired a Corporate Affairs/Stock Exchange joint working party which recommended establishment of a central clearing house system ultimately realised in the current CHESS system. From 1984 to 1990 he chaired the Companies and Securities Law Review Committee.

Melbourne Law School's JD Harold Ford Scholarships were named after him in recognition of all that he contributed to the Law School...

Professor Ford was the sole author of the first four editions of Ford's Principles of Corporations Law (now in its 14th edition). His other books included Unincorporated Non-Profit Associations and Principles of the Law of Death Duty, and the co-authored titles: Principles of the Law of Trusts; An Introduction to the Securities Industry Acts; The Law of Wills and Wills and Intestacy in Australia and New Zealand.

The minute of appreciation for Professor Ford at the meeting of the Faculty of Law held on 15 May 1974 expressed its "warm appreciation" for his work as Dean and for the "considerable skill and wisdom he brought to his term as Dean". Unmistakable in their words is the regard with which Professor Ford was held throughout his career by those fortunate enough to be taught by this remarkable scholar:

"Above all he remained universally admired by those students who benefitted from his teaching and maintained his scholarly research activities."

Image: Professor Harold Ford in 1987 on the award of an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Melbourne. 
Source: courtesy of the University of Melbourne Archives.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 8, October 2012.