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Historical Biography

Solicitor General: Walter E. Dellinger III

Photo of Solicitor General Walter E. Dellinger III
Walter E. Dellinger III
Solicitor General (Acting for the term), -

Walter Dellinger was born in Charlotte, NC on May 15, 1941. His father, a graduate of Charlotte High School worked at the American Trust Company, and his mother, Grace Lawing Dellinger, also graduated from Charlotte High School, worked as a sales clerk in clothing and furniture stores.

Dellinger was a graduate with Honors in Political Science from the University of North Carolina where he was awarded the John J. Parker Medal for Leadership and the Frank Porter Graham Award as Outstanding Senior. He graduated from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. For the 1968-69 Term of the United States Supreme Court he served as law clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black.

After serving in early 1993 in the White House as an advisor to the President on constitutional issues, Dellinger was nominated by the President to be Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and was confirmed by the Senate for that position in October, 1993. During his three years as Assistant Attorney General he served as the Department's principal legal advisor to the Attorney General and the President. As head of OLC, Dellinger issued opinions on a wide variety of issues, including the President's authority to deploy United States forces in Haiti and Bosnia; whether the President may decline to enforce statutes he believes are unconstitutional; affirmative action; religious activity in public schools; whether the Uruguay Round GATT Agreements required treaty ratification, and a major review of separation of powers questions. He provided extensive legal advice on loan guarantees for Mexico, on national debt ceiling issues, and on issues arising out of the shutdown of the federal government.

In August 1997, after having served as acting Solicitor General for the 1996-97 Term of the Supreme Court, Dellinger returned to Duke to be the Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law at Duke University. Dellinger argued nine cases before the Court including cases dealing with physician assisted suicide, the line item veto, the cable television act, the Brady Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitutionality of remedial services for parochial school children.

Dellinger published articles on constitutional issues for scholarly journals including the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Duke Law Journal and wrote articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, the New Republic and the London Times. He was a member of the Board of Editors of The American Prospect and a member of the Executive Committee of the Yale Law School Association.

Walter was married to Anne Maxwell Dellinger in 1965 and was a Professor of Public Law & Government at the University of North Carolina's Institute of Government. They had two sons, Hampton and Andrew.

Walter Dellinger died at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. on February 16, 2022.

Updated September 18, 2023