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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A distinguished professor of law and prolific legal scholar, Maurice Hitchcock Merrill was born in Washington, D.C., on October 3, 1897, to George W. and Mary Hitchcock Merrill. He arrived in Indian Territory as a child when his family moved to Stratford, in the Chickasaw Nation. Merrill enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in 1915 and was present when the school was practically taken over by the military in connection with World War I. He received his bachelor's degree in 1919 and his law degree in 1922. After practicing law in Tulsa, he enrolled at the Harvard Law School, earning a doctorate in 1925. After teaching for a year at the University of Idaho, he moved to the University of Nebraska in 1926 and remained for the next ten years. As he was remembered admiringly by his teachers at the University of Oklahoma Law School, and especially by Dean Julien Monnet, there was considerable satisfaction when the university procured his services in 1936. Dean Monnet wrote to Pres. William Bennett Bizzell, "I am quite sure that you will agree with me that this is a matter of congratulations for the University and the law school."

Over the next thirty-two years Maurice Merrill's record at the School of Law made him not only a revered teacher to generations of young law students, but a prodigious scholar of numerous aspects of American law. He wrote seven books and dozens of articles in the leading law journals of the United States. What made him remarkable was the diversity of the legal fields he mastered, taught, and to which he made scholarly contributions: he was an authority on constitutional, administrative, oil and gas, and labor law. He studied aspects of international law but preeminent in municipal corporate law and in the law of notice. Justice Felix Frankfurter described Merrill's huge body of scholarship as "wholly disinterested and exacting, concerned with the pursuit of truth for its own sake."

Maurice Merrill was famous for his relentless energy. When he retired from active duty in 1968, his dean remarked that this would probably mean cutting back his hours of work to around sixty per week. Indeed, his record of scholarly productivity and community service continued long after his retirement. His self-discipline, energy, and efficiency enabled him to undertake numerous extra duties at the university, in the town of Norman, and at the state and national level (including becoming a Oklahoma's representative to the United States Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws for nearly half a century). During the summers he was sought after and hired to teach by such prestigious law schools as California, Cornell, Chicago, Texas, Michigan, and others. He received numerous honors: Phi Beta Kappa, the Order of the Coif, the George Lynn Cross Research Professorship, election to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. A professorship was named in honor of him and his wife, Orpha. Maurce Merrill died in Norman on August 3, 1985, at the age of eighty-seven.

David W. Levy


"Maurice Merrill," Personnel File, Office of the Provost, Evans Hall, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Maurice Merrill, Interview [n.d.; typescript, 36 pp.], Herbert R. Hengst Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Oklahoma Law Review 25 (November 1972).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
David W. Levy, “Merrill, Maurice Hitchcock,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ME026.

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