Obituary: Michael Martin Uhlmann
CGU professor, journalist, author, lawyer
Michael Martin Uhlmann, a beloved professor, father, grandfather, brother and uncle, died October 8 after a brief illness.
Born December 29, 1939 in Washington, DC to Martin and Helen Uhlmann, he attended St. Johns College in DC, before graduating from the Hill School in 1958. Michael received a bachelor’s in history from Yale, an LLB from the University of Virginia Law School, and a PhD in government from Claremont Graduate University.
He had been a professor in the Division of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University since 2002, an expert on the American presidency, executive–congressional relations, the regulatory state and the federal judiciary. He also taught in and directed CGU’s Tribal Administration Certificate Program and was an adjunct professor at Claremont McKenna College.
Prior to joining the Claremont faculty, Mr. Uhlmann served as a senior vice president of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC. He was also for many years a partner in the law firm of Pepper, Hamilton, and Scheetz, where he specialized in federal antitrust and administrative law.
His distinguished career in government began, in a sense, with his PhD dissertation on the Electoral College, the basis for a 1970 Senate Judiciary Committee report widely credited with helping scuttle a proposed constitutional amendment to establish direct election of the president.
As counsel to Senator James F. Buckley of New York, he drafted the first Human Life Amendment, among other legislative work. He also served as assistant general counsel of the Federal Trade Commission and assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in the Department of Justice.
From 1981 to 1984, he served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and associate director of the White House Office of Policy Development. He directed legal and administrative policy for the Reagan presidential transition in 1980-1981 and chaired the Department of Justice transition team for President-elect George H. W. Bush in 1988-1989.
He wrote for many leading newspapers and journals of opinion, including National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, First Things, The Human Life Review, and The Claremont Review of Books. He was also the editor of the anthology, Last Rights? Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Debated.
“Above all, Michael was a man of great faith and great patriotism, a serious and contemplative thinker who also told a fine joke,” his family shared. “Charming and gracious, he built countless deep friendships. He made his friends and loved ones feel cherished. His storytelling was epic and his laugh unique.
“He often gave support when support was needed but not expected and was boundlessly kind to the least fortunate. Never slow with a retort, he enjoyed being described as a co-conspirator (‘currently unindicted,’ he would add), but was more of a confidante who always gave good counsel.”
“Uhlmann’s Laws” include Uhlmann’s Razor (“When stupidity seems a sufficient explanation, there is no need for recourse to any more elaborate analysis”) and Uhlmann’s First Law of Historical Causation (“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”) A favorite of his students, however, was this rule of thumb: “When evaluating the soundness of any moral proposition, law, rule, or regulation, however popular, to ascertain its true meaning, read it aloud slowly in a German accent.”
In his speech accepting Claremont Institute’s Henry Salvatori Prize in 2018, he counseled, “Take time to know your creator, to acknowledge his beneficence, and to give thanks for his gifts of life, love and laughter.”
“He lived by that advice and ended every conversation with a humble ‘God bless,’” his family shared. “He also influenced many in their conversion to Catholicism. Those who loved and admired him are confident that the blessings of the almighty are now upon him.”
Mr. Uhlmann is survived by his brother, Donald; children, Rachael, Peter, Jennifer, Rebecca and Sarah; and 10 grandchildren, Hawkins, Sophie, Greta, Henry, Madeleine, Lily, Lucy, Isabella, Juliet and Max.
A wake will be held today at Eaton and MacKay Funeral Home in Newton, Massachusetts, with a funeral tomorrow at St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Human Life Foundation, 271 Madison Ave., Room 1005, New York, NY 10016.