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MSS 79-5

The Papers of A. J. Gustin Priest


Professional papers mainly related to public utilities and the American Bar Association; academic files related to his teaching at the University of Virginia School of Law and some personal files.

1919-1972 [Inclusive]
10 Cubic Feet (26 boxes)

Scope & Contents

The Papers of A. J. Gustin Priest span the years 1919-1977, the concentration of material falling roughly within the period 1950-1970.

There are seven series or subject categories:

I. Law practice, primarily in the field of public utilities;
II. University of Virginia files
III, Beta Theta Pi files.
IV. United World Federalists and related organizations;
V. American Bar Association and other organizations;
VI. Drafts and correspondence regarding Priest's books, articles and speeches;
VII. Personal correspondence and records.

Almost half of these records contain the correspondence relating to the consulting work Priest did in public utilities law after he began teaching at Virginia. (He brought virtually none of his files from Reid and Priest with him.) Within this series the case most heavily documented by correspondence and working papers is <em>Southwestern Electric Power v. Federal Power Commission</em>, usually referred to as the ECAP case.

Priest's University of Virginia records contain almost nothing about his teaching; the whereabouts of his lecture materials is unknown. Instead, these files contain correspondence regarding his employment, recommendations of students he taught, guest speakers for his classes, courses and lectures he gave at other institutions, and the settlement of the estates of Roy and Vernah Moyston, generous benefactors of the University of Virginia.

In addition to the consulting and teaching files are those relating to the organizations and causes Priest supported. Of research value to those interested in social fraternities are the files of correspondence and speeches relating to the national organization of Beta Theta Pi. These files span 1926 to 1973, with heavy concentration in the early fifties when Priest was national president. Priest, who deplored the "abysmal" state of fraternities in Virginia, was successful in the early seventies in getting the local Beta disbanded. The United World Federalist files cover 1953-1973, in spite of the fact that Priest was involved in the movement a decade earlier. The correspondence concerns everything from statements before Congressional committees to the editing of articles for publication. Over these two decades, Priest corresponded with a great variety of people involved in the movement. Documented slightly are Priest's association with the ABA, Phi Beta Kappa, and the United Negro College Fund.

There are drafts of Priest's books, <em>Old Hilarity</em> and <em>Principles of Public Utility Regulation</em>, together with correspondence about those books and about <em>The Great Ones</em> as well. Priest also saved most of the texts of his speeches and articles, with related correspondence.

Finally, there is a good deal of personal material. He wrote regularly to his family and saved carbon copies of those letters (1931 to 1973). Mrs. Priest allowed us to make copies of the carbons. The family letters reveal Priest's personality, his strong political opinions, and his enormous range of activities, but he wrote very little about his work. Understandably, he usually reported where a case had taken him -to Washington, D.C., or San Francisco, or Canada- but he seldom mentioned any details of the case or what parties were involved. There are several folders of general personal correspondence, as well as financial records and correspondence about medical and insurance problems, the two houses he and Mrs. Priest owned, his church, etc. Hartwell Priest lived and studied art in Paris for six or eight months before she married A. J., and he saved all the letters she sent him; these letters have also been copied.

Collection Description


    Within the series, the correspondence has been filed and labeled as Priest had it, i.e., alphabetically by subject and then chronologically. Items obviously misfiled have been put where they belong. Ambiguities and inconsistencies in the filing system were a result of Priest's having had many secretaries, particularly after he began teaching. Consequently, the researcher is advised to examine the whole series in areas of interests or the entire collection, if time permits.

    Biographical / Historical

    A native of Nebraska, A.J. Gustin Priest served as a sergeant of infantry during World War I. He earned his B.A. from the University of Idaho, as well as a law degree there in 1921. He practiced law for five years in Boise before moving to New York City for a position with a public utility holding company. After leaving for private practice in 1935, he gained a national reputation representing public utility corporations while a partner in the firm of Reid and Priest. He joined the Virginia law faculty in 1953, and retired from full-time teaching in 1966, continuing as a lecturer & scholar in residence until 1978.

    With characteristic vigor, Priest threw himself into teaching, eager to impart his knowledge and expertise in corporate practice to his students. He taught Public Utility Regulations, Corporations, Corporate Finance, Parliamentary Law and Corporate Securities. A lawyer with deep integrity, Priest emphasized to his students the significance of high moral standards in the legal profession. Priest devoted his considerable energy to a number of organizations and causes outside the legal professions, including the world peace movement. He was the first chairman of the national executive council of the United World Federalists. He also served as chairman of the Section of Public Utility Law of the American Bar Association, as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni in New York, and as national president of the Beta Theta Pi college fraternity. He received the Man of the Year award from the United World Federalists and was a life member of the American Bar Foundation. He died in 1978.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Hartwell W. Priest donated these files to the Law School in May of 1979.

seriesSeries I. Law Practice
seriesSeries II: University of Virginia
seriesSeries III: Beta Theta Phi
seriesSeries IV: United World Federalists and related organizations
seriesSeries V: American Bar Association
seriesSeries VI: Drafts and correspondence regarding Priest's publications and speeches
seriesSeries VII: Personal correspondence and records
fileAmerican Bar Association , 1953-1956MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileABA Section of Public Utility Law, 1953-1956; 1964MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileABA: Vincent McDevitt, 1953-1954MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileABA: Jonathan Gibson, 1953-1954MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileABA: William Jameson, 1953-1954MSS 79-5, Box 19
filePhi Beta Kappa, 1953-1954, 1956MSS 79-5, Box 19
filePhi Beta Kappa Associates, 1953-1956, 1972MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileUnited Negro College Fund, 1955-1963MSS 79-5, Box 19
file"Corporate Democracy" - Dicta Article and Correspondence, 1953MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileThe Great Ones: Correspondence, 1956MSS 79-5, Box 19
file"Those Dividends Were Not Paid Out of Capital:" Partial Draft and Correspondence, 1957, 1958, 1965MSS 79-5, Box 19
fileOld Hilarity: Typescripts and Correspondence, 1963-1970MSS 79-5, Box 19