Homicidal History: Shootings, Stabbings, Lynchings, Melees, Massacres and the Legacy of the Civil War in Modern Missouri
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
3:30 p.m. in Reynolds Alumni Center Ballroom
Reception to follow in the Great Room
Frank O. Bowman III
The ninth annual 21st Century Corps of Discovery Lecture at the University of Missouri features Frank O. Bowman III, the Floyd R. Gibson Missouri Endowed Professor of Law.
Recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in criminal justice policy, Bowman’s research extends to crimes of the past. He will speak about the social and legal history of the Civil War period in Boone County, Mo., drawing from his recent study of murders tried in the area from 1850 to 1875.
Throughout his career, Bowman has been interested in the origins of legal rules, especially those that respond to “extremes of individual misconduct or societal breakdown.” About five years ago, his curiosity expanded beyond contemporary criminal justice policy to the Civil War, this country’s greatest outbreak of violence.
“Stories of the Civil War help explain the area’s current social and political geography,” Bowman says. “Missouri’s history is singular in that it was a border slave state that remained in the Union, but was riven before, during and after the War with guerilla conflict and racial violence.”
Bowman describes his professional life as one “lived at the intersection of law and violent or predatory human misbehavior.” Before his more than two decades of legal scholarship, Bowman spent seventeen years as a trial lawyer.
“All good trial lawyers are practical social historians,” Bowman says. “They want to know not only what the protagonists in a case did, but why they did it and how the history of the community from which the jurors are drawn will dispose them to see the matter.”
Bowman’s extensive scholarly work includes a 1,900-page leading treatise on federal sentencing law as well as a multiplicity of academic articles in several of the nation’s leading law reviews. He has published more than 50 works, including his recent entry in the Missouri Law Review, “Getting Away with Murder (Most of the Time): Civil War Era Homicide Cases in Boone County, Mo.”
“The moral ambiguities of history are especially rich here in mid-Missouri,” he says. “The deeper wisdom to be gained from a study of our own recent past comes from reflection on the fact that not very long ago in the place we now inhabit a great many otherwise decent, industrious, self-consciously virtuous people believed and did things we reject as irredeemably evil. That we believe this to be true ought to make us wonder which of our own certitudes another generation will consider monstrous.”
To make his findings accessible to the public and to better understand what happened in central Missouri during the Civil War, Bowman has created a website entitled War and Reconciliation.
In addition to his scholarly endeavors, Bowman helps law students explore the intersection of law, history and theatre through the Historical and Theatrical Trial Society. Each year, students and faculty select a historical event that represents a potential legal cause but was never tried. This spring, the society will try before a military tribunal the confederate guerillas who sacked Lawrence, Kan., during the Civil War.
Bowman earned his bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in 1976 and received his law degree from Harvard in 1979. He immediately entered the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Honor Graduate Program, where he worked on a range of cases from ordinary bank robberies to investigation of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. In addition, he has worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida, for the Denver District Attorney's Office, and for several private law firms.
After an outstanding career in law practice, Bowman began his academic career. Before joining the faculty at MU’s School of Law, he taught at Indiana University School of Law, Gonzaga University School of Law and Washington and Lee University School of Law, among others.
“The impact of Professor Bowman’s scholarship reaches not only across the legal academy, but outside the academy to the chambers of judges and the offices of Congress and administrative agencies,” says Gary Myers, dean of the MU law school. “It is said that good trial lawyers are good storytellers, and Professor Bowman is certainly among the best.”
The annual 21st Century Corps of Discovery Lecture features an outstanding MU faculty member to commemorate the contributions of the Lewis and Clark expedition and to inspire and unite the university community. Reinforcing “discovery,” one of the university’s core values, the lecture is intended to represent MU’s diverse academics in science, art, humanities, law, medicine, engineering, education, journalism and business.