Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Our Friend and Colleague, Norman Singer
Here at the University of Alabama, we are mourning the loss of our friend Norman Singer, who taught in the Law School and the anthropology department. Norman died on Monday at the age of 78. His obituary in the local paper provides some biographical details:
He was Professor Emeritus of Law and Anthropology at the University of Alabama, and for 40 years held full tenured professorships in both departments, though he was proud that he never took salary or benefits from Arts and Sciences.
Professor Singer had a wide-ranging international career as well. After graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he worked for a year in Stockholm. A trip through Russia and into Iran introduced him to the Middle East. He returned to the States, graduated summa cum laude from Boston University Law School and in 1964 and joined the Peace Corps with his wife, the former Bethany Wasserman. They spent four years in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where Professor Singer was a member of the first law faculty in Ethiopia and where two sons were born.
Prof. Singer joined the University of Alabama Law School in 1971 and in 1975 received the SJD from Harvard, with an anthropological/legal dissertation on traditional legal systems in Ethiopia.
While teaching full time at the University of Alabama, Professor Singer also fitted in numerous projects in countries as diverse as Albania, Cambodia, Croatia, Egypt, Fiji, Iraq, Trinidad, and Zanzibar. He became known as a major expert in restructuring land tenure in countries with poorly-organized or non-existent private land systems. He also took leave from the University to spend 1980-82 as the Ford Foundation Res. Rep. in the Sudan.
Professor Singer may be best known in the legal world as the author of a treatise, Sutherland, Statutory Construction. In recent years, he has shared authorship with his eldest son, Shambie J.D. Singer.
He was born in Boston, Mass. to the late Morris and Anna C. Singer. His first marriage ended in divorce.
He is survived by his wife, Anna Jacobs Singer; sons, Shambie, Jeremy (Nicole) and Micah (Ali); stepdaughters, Joanna Jacobs and Stephanie Jacobs; special children, Ejvis Lamani, and Anil and Aron Mujumdar; grandchildren, Sofia, Avery and Zeke Singer; and sister, Helen Silverstein.
"Some" details, I said. I would add a few more. Norman was a blast. He was boisterous and humorous. He had decades-long friendships with many of his students. His office door was always open and he was usually shouting out of it from inside to someone or other. (In a lively, not an angry, way.) And just as he was a big part of the life of the Law School, his wife, Anna, was and is a major part of the Tuscaloosa community and especially of our local synagogue; his stepdaughters, Stephanie and Joanna, were and are a big part of the local community as well.
When talking to hiring candidates about the strengths and distinctive qualities of UA and Tuscaloosa--and particularly given the difficulties of convincing hiring candidates, some of whom have lived in only a few and fairly standard places, that it is possible to move somewhere quite different (in some respects; all college towns have many shared traits) and have a good and fulfilling life--I generally focus on the strong, supportive sense of community I have found here, both at the Law School and across and beyond the university. Especially as a parent, and given all the medical issues I've faced in the past decade, it's been an extraordinarily important and rewarding aspect of life here. When I think of that, I am often reminded of one of the first visits my wife and I made here with our daughter, then about a year old, while we were still figuring out where to live and so on. Norman and Anna had us over to their house, a few blocks from where we live now, to welcome us and offer their advice. Their children had long since reached adulthood, but they found some old wooden toys for our daughter to play with while we talked. It's a little thing, I know, but a sense of community is built up from many such little things. It was a warm and welcoming visit and, between life in the Law School building itself, life in Tuscaloosa more generally, and our involvement with the temple, one of countless numbers of occasions when we were grateful for the warmth and friendship of both Norm and Anna. We will miss him, and extend our love and condolences to his family.