Professor Charles D. Kelso, who taught at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law for 40 years, died recently at the age of 95.

Affectionately known as “Papa Kelso” to students, he joined the faculty in 1978 and profoundly impacted the McGeorge community through decades of dedicated service before his retirement in 2017.

Kelso taught courses on constitutional law, the First Amendment and contracts.

Born in 1928 in Indiana, Kelso earned undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Chicago. After graduating from law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice Sherman Minton of the Supreme Court of the United States.

By the age of 22, he began teaching at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Indianapolis, earning recognition as the youngest law professor in the nation at that time.

Kelso also earned Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees from Columbia University and a Doctor of Laws degree from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.

Kelso’s commitment to legal education became a family tradition with his wife, Jane Kelso, serving as dean of students at McGeorge School of Law from 1982 to 2001. Two of their children followed in Charles’ footsteps and became law professors. Clark Kelso has been a law professor at McGeorge for the past 38 years and Randall Kelso serves on the faculty at South Texas School of Law Houston.

According to Clark Kelso, the family legal dynasty has lasted for more than seven generations—dating back to the 1800s.

“My father was an inspiration to law professors around the country and, of course, at McGeorge,” Clark Kelso said. “He was an innovator in legal education, years ahead of his time.”

Charles Kelso’s contributions include a 1972 study on part-time law schools co-authored by his wife. The study advocated for objective measures of law schools and the effectiveness of part-time education. Also in the 1970s, he engaged with PLATO, the first computer-based learning system developed at the University of Illinois, showcasing his forward-thinking approach.

Kelso wrote four books, eight monographs and more than 70 law review articles with many on constitutional law and legal education.

He stated that he believed “the legal profession, in any of its branches, is a great place in which to devote one’s career. I hope that my students enjoy it as much as I have, and that they experience careers which meet all their expectations.”

McGeorge Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz expressed sadness at his passing and admiration for his work.

“Professor Kelso was so beloved. Since I shared the news of his passing, I have received dozens of emails from alumni telling stories of his kindness, his brilliance, his care for students and his excellence as a teacher.”