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Former Street Law Publisher Dwight Opperman Dies at 89

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Former Street Law Publisher Dwight Opperman Dies at 89

Dwight D. Opperman

Dwight Opperman, former president of West Publishing Company, died Thursday, June 13 at his home in Beverly Hills, CA.

Mr. Opperman was instrumental in the creation of the original Street Law program and its accompanying practical law textbook. Under his leadership, West Publishing Company published the first edition of the Street Law textbook in 1975—a time in which West only published materials for lawyers. West went on to publish new editions of Street Law from 1975 until 2000. Mr. Opperman later served on Street Law's National Advisory Committee.

In 1951, Mr. Opperman graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, IA, with a law degree. After graduation he took a job as an editor at West Publishing Company, then based in St. Paul. He rose to the top at West, leading the publisher as it developed Westlaw, which was launched in the mid-1970s.

After selling West, Mr. Opperman went on to become an active philanthropist, establishing a number of scholarships at Drake and endowing Drake’s Dwight D. Opperman Constitutional Law Lecture, an annual lecture delivered by top scholars, often U.S. Supreme Court Justices. He held board positions at institutions such as the Drake University Law School, New York University School of Law, William & Mary School of Law and the Supreme Court Historical Society.

John Roberts Jr., Chief Justice of the United States, issued a statement Thursday saying the Court was “deeply saddened” to learn of Dwight Opperman’s death. Roberts noted, “Dwight has long been a committed friend and supporter not only of the Supreme Court but of the Federal Judiciary as a whole. He demonstrated his deep commitment to the American system of justice, and in particular the role of the judge in that system, in countless other ways as well.”

He is survived by his wife, Julie Chrystyn; two sons; a sister; nine grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.