Bill Clinton and classmates recall late GU Professor Walter Giles

Sunday’s Washington Post had a nice writeup of the late Georgetown Professor Walter Giles (SFS ’43, GRD ’45) in which Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) and some of his classmates reminisce about his stringent classroom practices by T. Rees Shapiro. Giles, a constitutional law and American government professor, used to lock the door of his lecture hall five minutes into class against tardy students.

“If students were not prepared and wanted to avoid the humiliation of being called upon without an answer, they had to approach the professor before class began and plead ‘nolo contendere,’ or no contest,” Shapiro writes.

For his part, Clinton remembers falling asleep in Dr. Giles’s class during a lecture on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Dr. Giles said the ruling was easy to understand, “unless, of course, you’re from some hick town in Arkansas,” which sent the class into stitches and startled Clinton awake. Clinton recalls never falling asleep in the class again.

According to his Washington Post obituary Giles graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 1943. He returned to Georgetown after serving in the Army Air Forces in World War II and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in government in 1945 and 1956. He taught government for 43 years until he retired in 1990. He passed away as a result of congestive heart failure at 89 on October 9.

Photo from the The Washington Post

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