Ezra Ripley Thayer

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Ezra Ripley Thayer
Ezra Ripley Thayer ca 1910.jpg
Born (1866-02-21)February 21, 1866
Milton, Massachusetts
Died September 14, 1915(1915-09-14) (aged 49)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Fields Law
Institutions Harvard Law School
Alma mater Harvard Law School

Ezra Ripley Thayer (February 21, 1866 – September 14, 1915) was an attorney, Dane Professor of Law, and Dean of the Harvard Law School from 1910–1915.

Early life[edit]

Ezra Ripley Thayer was born in Milton, Massachusetts on February 21, 1866 to Harvard Law School professor James Bradley Thayer, and Sophia Bradford (Ripley) Thayer. He attended public schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and studied abroad with a tutor for a year in Athens, Greece. Upon his return, he entered Harvard College with the class of 1888. After graduation, Thayer attended Harvard Law School, where he graduated with an LL.B. in 1891.[1]

He married Ethel Randolph Clark on June 23, 1898 and had three children: James Bradley Thayer (1899–1976), Eleanor Arnold Thayer (1902–1923), and Ethel Randolph Thayer Starr (1904–2006).

Law career[edit]

Thayer served Secretary to Justice Horace Gray, U.S. Supreme Court in 1892. He practiced law in Boston with the firm of Brandeis, Dunbar, and Nutter from 1893–1900. Then, from 1900–1910 he moved to the Boston firm of Storey, Thorndike, Palmer and Thayer.

In 1910, Thayer was appointed as Dean of Harvard Law School, succeeding James Barr Ames, who had died in January of that year. In 1913, he declined an offer to be appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

Connection to Cole Porter[edit]

Cole Porter, the famous American songwriter, was enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. Porter did not take to the study of law. Porter met with Thayer, who was Dean at the time. Thayer suggested that Porter should switch schools and instead enroll at Harvard's music school, which was obviously Porter's true calling. Porter took Thayer's advice and secretly transferred to the music program.[2]


  1. ^ Dunbar, William H.; Pound, Roscoe. “Ezra Ripley Thayer,” Harvard Law Review, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Nov. 1915), pp. 1–12, accessed August 16, 2013
  2. ^ Shaftel, Matthew. "From Inspiration to Archive: Cole Porter's 'Night and Day'", Journal of Music Theory, Duke University Press, Volume 43, No. 2 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 315, 318 accessed August 16, 2013 (subscriptionrequired)

Further reading[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
James Barr Ames
Dean of Harvard Law School
Succeeded by
Roscoe Pound