Monthly Archives: June 1982

1982.06.20: In Memoriam: Donald G. Hagman (UCLA Law)

Donald G. Hagman, Law: Los Angeles

A UCLA law professor since 1963, Donald G. Hagman died of an accidental fall from a cliff on June 20, 1982, shortly after his 50th birthday. He was an internationally distinguished scholar in the fields of land-use planning, housing law and state and local taxation.

Don had a consuming interest in the workings of government, particularly state and local governments. He served in the 1960s as Associate Director of UCLA’s Institute of Government. Don was committed to the premise that government must serve all the people without discrimination. He felt strongly about the responsibility of academics to assist the processes of government. He untiringly served on government task forces, committees and commissions, addressing a large variety of groups to propose novel ways to solve problems of planning, land use, taxation and the like. In this effort he was recognized to be a person with a vision and deep commitment. He is probably best known among law students and lawyers for his treatise, Urban Planning, and for his fascinating, even at times idiosyncratic, law school casebook, Public Planning and Control of Urban and Land Development. Academic lawyers and planners know him best for his masterpiece, Windfalls for Wipeouts, which has shaped the current debate about landowners’ right to compensation as a result of public regulation. He devoted much time and energy in the company of elected and appointed government officials, successfully challenging them to consider different ways to deal with their responsibilities, inspiring them to try new approaches.

Don brought to his scholarship and to his social activities a welcome quality of irreverence and unconventionality in challenging the unexamined assumptions that he frequently encountered. He saw his human interests as inseparably linked to those of others who were less favored. He was a morally committed person who tried very hard to minimize the gap between his beliefs about the right way to live and the way he actually lived.

Don was a good and giving person, committed to the values central to academic life: academic freedom, imaginative scholarship, and improving

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the humane and democratic qualities of the institution. Those humane values that he wanted to prevail in the academic community, he wanted no less for the community as a whole. If he was deeply committed to expanding his scholarly understanding of land use, he was no less committed to making decent housing available to those who lacked it, and to reducing the effect of personal wealth upon the distribution of such a fundamental human resource.

While he was a morally committed person, he was tolerant of those who saw things differently. He would try to persuade, but displayed no arrogance in presenting his vision of the social good. A colleague remarked at Don’s memorial service that he had “the least consciousness of self, of ego enhancing compulsions of anyone I know.” Ego enhancement did not determine what he said or did; there were no hidden agendas, and little in the way of strategic calculation in the way he expressed his views. He was frank, open and totally without guile; when he said something, one always knew it was because he meant it.

We suspect that Don would be glad to be remembered for the qualities noted by Dean Susan Prager: the theme “that unified Don’s life was the concern for people–particularly the less popular, whether it was the poor who did not have housing, minorities, or women who did not fit neatly into the prevailing professional setting, or people with unconventional views.”

His passing is an immeasurable loss not only to his family and his large circle of friends but to the academic community and to the larger one as well.

He is survived by his wife Ilene and his children, Chris, Mary and Steve.

Werner Z. Hirsch
Edgar A. Jones, Jr.
Leon  Letwin