Legendary LSU Law alumnus and Professor Emeritus Frank L. Maraist is being remembered for his immeasurable impact on the Paul M. Hebert Law Center and countless contributions to the Louisiana legal community following his passing on Sunday, Aug. 7, at the age of 90.
A native of Kaplan—a small Vermillion Parish city located just southwest of Lafayette—Maraist earned his degree from LSU Law in 1958 as an honors graduate and Tullis Moot Court Competition champion. He returned to his alma mater as a professor in 1974 and remained at LSU Law for the next 37 years, with his engaging teaching style and extensive scholarship earning him a reputation as Louisiana’s foremost expert in several areas of law. Maraist taught many subjects during his nearly four decades at LSU Law, but he was best known for his courses in Torts, Evidence, Louisiana Civil Procedure, Admiralty, and Maritime Personal Injury.
A fast talker and charming conversationalist who had a vast network of friends that included many of his former students, Maraist was a highly respected mentor and close friend to many of his colleagues. He is also widely considered to be one of the greatest faculty and student recruiters in LSU Law history, with Interim Dean Lee Ann Wheelis Lockridge being among those whom he helped lure to the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
“I fondly think of Frank as the first person who began recruiting me with a phone call back in the fall of 2004, and I’m sure everyone who was lucky enough to know him personally can appreciate just how memorable that experience was for someone who is not from Louisiana! Fortunately, he and I were able to communicate sufficiently enough for us to arrange a formal interview, and he remained satisfied enough with my qualifications not to withdraw the opportunity,” said Lockridge, who joined the faculty in 2005 and has served as interim dean since the start of 2020. “All of us at LSU Law have greatly missed Frank since his retirement, and we will miss him all the more now.”
After delivering the final lecture of his career on July 14, 2011, in Room 110 of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Maraist received a standing ovation from the students, faculty, and staff who gathered to honor the retiring professor. Seven years later, the same classroom was officially renamed the Frank L. Maraist Lecture Hall following a successful fundraising campaign that netted more than $300,000.
In 1999, the Frank Maraist Scholarship was established to provide a deserving third-year LSU Law student with an annual gift of support. Those who would like to honor Maraist’s memory by enhancing the capacity of his namesake scholarship can do so by making a gift online. The Frank Maraist Professorship was also established at LSU Law in 1999, and it has been held by Professor Bill Corbett since its creation.
“I had the privilege of knowing and working with this great man for 31 years, and I am proud to have called Professor Maraist my friend, mentor, and role model,” Corbett said. “He was the consummate teacher and scholar. Frank had a positive impact on more students’ lives than any teacher I have ever known. His lasting influence on the law and the legal profession cannot be overstated. His scholarship has shaped the law and influenced judges and lawyers for decades, and it will continue to do so. He was a living legend, and we will not see his like again.”
Maraist’s impact as an educator and scholar extended far beyond the walls of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center. In addition to being the longest-serving executive director of the Louisiana Judicial College—an extension of the Louisiana Supreme Court that provides continuing legal education to judges—he was also the first executive director of the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel, which is one of the four largest state organizations in the nation that provides continuing legal education to defense attorneys.
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton (’80) called Maraist a “pioneer in judicial education,” adding, “Those who knew him and learned from him—lawyers, judges, and students alike—are grateful for his enormous contributions and tireless commitment to the legal community in Louisiana. He will be dearly missed.”
Maraist served as faculty director of the continuing legal education program at LSU, and was frequently an invited speaker at legal conferences and seminars held across the state for Louisiana lawyers and judges. He served as a Louisiana Supreme Court committee member, and briefly as a judge at the 19th Judicial District Court by special appointment of the state’s high court. Maraist was also a faculty member of the National Judicial College, and a visiting law professor at both Tulane University and Washington University in St. Louis.
“Professor Maraist was an icon who was truly beloved by all of those whom he taught, which included scores and generations of Louisiana lawyers and judges,” said the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Louisiana Judicial College in a statement. “He was and will remain a giant in the law of Louisiana through his countless contributions in the Treatises and law review articles he wrote. His newsletter was a ‘must read’ to keep up with statutory and jurisprudential changes. Professor Marist had the rare ability to address legal issues scholarly and practically, but always with wit, charm, and good humor.”
Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John L. Weimer (’80) is among the many LSU Law graduates who were inspired by Maraist as a student and sought out his wisdom and guidance long after graduation.
“When I became an attorney, I called upon Professor Maraist’s expertise and experience. When I became a teacher, I tried to emulate him. When I became a judge, he continued to encourage and promote my career,” Weimer said. “I am proud to say he became not only a mentor, but a very dear friend.”
After his retirement from LSU Law, Maraist remained an active legal scholar, and he authored or co-authored 23 books and many more articles throughout his distinguished career. His co-authors included his daughter, Catherine Maraist (’98), and LSU President Emeritus and LSU Law Professor Tom Galligan, among others.
“Frank Maraist was a giant in Louisiana law,” said Galligan. “He was a fantastic teacher and scholar with a personality bigger than the galaxy. To me, he was a mentor, friend, co-author, and so much more. We will all miss him very much, and we are extremely grateful for all he gave to so many people here at LSU Law and far beyond.”
Maraist displayed a knack for academics from an early age, graduating from Kaplan High School when he was just 15 years old and earning his undergraduate degree from Southwestern Louisiana Institute (known today as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) when he was only 19. He was a member of the National Guard while in college and was drafted by the U.S. Army after his graduation. After three years of service, which included a year in Germany, he was able to leave the Army and begin his studies at LSU Law.
Maraist practiced law for 10 years after earning his law degree, beginning his career in 1958 as an associate with Sanders, Miller, Downing, Rubin & Kean in Baton Rouge. He was named partner in 1960 and spent two more years with the firm before departing for Deshotels & Maraist in Abbeville, where he served as a partner alongside his uncle. When Maraist decided the local community needed a quality weekly newspaper, he launched The Kaplan Herald, and operated it for six years while practicing law before selling the newspaper.
“I was doing well practicing law, but I wanted something more than that,” Maraist said of his decision to become a law professor, in a 2015 video interview with the Louisiana Bar Foundation as part of its Oral History Project. “I called Dean Hebert and went and had a meeting with him, and he was not interested in me as a law professor. He said he didn’t hire LSU graduates at that time.”
Maraist turned next to LSU Law Professor George Pugh, who advised him to pursue his master’s degree in law. Maraist earned his LLM from Yale University in 1969 and joined the law faculty at the University of Mississippi the same year. During his time in Oxford, he served as a visiting law professor at the University of Texas for a summer, and eventually departed in 1973 for the University of North Carolina, where he would remain for just one year before Dean Hebert called him with an offer to return to LSU Law as a professor.
Maraist received many honors and awards throughout his career, including the American Law Institute-American Bar Association Harrison Tweed Award for Special Merit in CLE in 1992, and the Louisiana Bar Foundation Award as Outstanding Law Professor in 1998. LSU Law honored Maraist as its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2019 and recognized his many contributions to the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at that year’s Distinguished Alumni Celebration.
“He loved his students,” said his daughter, Catherine, upon accepting the award on her father’s behalf at the celebration. “As much as he gave to you, he got from you. You energized him, and he’s proud of all of you and your accomplishments.”
Despite all his accomplishments and the outpouring of appreciation he regularly received from his students and colleagues, Maraist was modest by nature. In his interview with the Louisiana Bar Foundation for its Oral History Project, he described his teaching tenure at LSU Law as having had “some degree of success,” adding that his greatest accomplishment was helping a former student of his—Eulis Simien, Jr.—become the first Black law professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
When that interview concluded with Maraist being asked how he wanted to be remembered by those who knew him, he responded simply with, “He did his damnedest,” adding, “I did the best I could have under the circumstances.”