Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Meserve, Robert W., 1909-95
Robert W. Meserve (1909-95), A1931, a past president of the American Bar Association and prominent trial lawyer, was the former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tufts College and recipient of the Hosea Ballou Medal.
The son of a motorman on the Boston Elevated Railroad Company, Meserve was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1909. His family later moved to Medford, where he attended Medford High School. He then attended Tufts, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in 1931. As an undergraduate, Meserve was a member of the Ivy and Tower Cross honor societies, secretary of the student council, and president of both Sigma Tau Alpha fraternity and the inter-fraternity council. Meserve continued his studies at Harvard Law School, obtaining his law degree in 1934.While there, he was editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Meserve initially joined the Boston law firm, Nutter, McClennan & Fish, but left to become an assistant U.S attorney. In that office, Meserve tried several antitrust cases from the motion picture industry. From 1937-40, he was a lecturer at Harvard Law School. He also lectured at Boston College Law School from 1956-61.
Meserve returned briefly to Nutter, McClennan, & Fish before enlisting as an officer in the Naval Reserve in 1941.He spent three years serving aboard the USS Langley, and received seven battle stars for action in the Pacific. In 1945, Meserve was discharged from the Navy and returned to the law firm, where he gained national recognition as one of his generation's top trial lawyers.
In 1973, he formed the firm of Newman & Meserve, practicing there until 1978, when he joined Palmer & Dodge, another law firm. He retired from that firm in 1984, but returned, after working two years in the US Attorney's office, in 1986.
Meserve was president of the American Bar Association from 1972-3, making him the first Boston lawyer to hold the office in the twentieth century. He chaired the ABA's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary from 1963-65, during which time he helped screen judicial nominees proposed by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Meserve also served as president of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Boston Bar Association. He also worked on federal committees, including the Advisory Committee and the Federal Criminal Rules, the Federal Civil Rules, and was also a member of the Devitt Commission on Admissions to the Federal Bar.
Locally, he was member of the Medford City Council and the Medford School Committee.
He was the recipient of several awards associated with the legal profession, including the ABA's Whitney North Seymour Award, the ABA's Gold Medal Award, and the American Trial Lawyers' Courageous Advocacy Award.
He continued his involvement with Tufts after graduation by serving on the Alumni Council, chairing the group in 1954.In 1955, he was elected an alumni trustee, and also chaired the Tufts Alumni Fund Drive. Meserve was made a life trustee in 1959.During the 1960s, he served as president of the Tufts Alumni Association, Vice-President of the Tufts-New England Medical Center, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tufts College. Meserve was presented the Hosea Ballou Medal in 1973.
Meserve died at the New England Medical Center on September 21, 1995.He was married to the former Gladys Swenson, with whom he had five children.
Source: VF, BH, NYT