January 15, 2002


 Hannah leaves lasting legacy: Know the law

Posted Jan. 1, 2002

Throughout the decades of the '70s, '80s, and '90s, and into the 21st century, veterinarians could turn to Harold W. "Hank" Hannah, JD, for sound legal advice.

Hank Hannah and his wife, BowieHank Hannah and his wife, Bowie

The author of the JAVMA "Legal Brief" feature died Nov. 20, 2001, leaving a veterinary profession more educated about the law. In a 1994 interview, Hannah referred to veterinarians as "a great breed of people." To them, he was a mentor and friend.

Last year, Hannah received a letter from AVMA Editor-in-Chief Janis H. Audin on the occasion of his 90th birthday. "Your Legal Brief articles are among the treasures of the American Veterinary Medical Association," she wrote. "You have shown me and your devoted readers how important it is to continue to observe, question, and learn from the past to be able to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow."

"Legal Brief" is the second-longest running JAVMA feature. Dr. Arthur Freeman, who as editor-in-chief in 1969 invited Hannah to create the series, once praised the briefs for their literary excellence and technical reliability. Hannah's custom was to work in advance of his monthly deadlines, so several more briefs are to be published this year.

On hearing of Hannah's death, one veterinarian said the "Legal Brief" feature made him a better and more effective veterinarian, and influenced the way he practiced medicine, handled animals, and advised clients, students, and colleagues.

A charter and founding member of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, Hannah served as its first president, in 1995-1996. The AVMLA was created to increase the knowledge of veterinarians and lawyers about application of the law to veterinary medicine, and thereby help practitioners with their business practice. Dr. Jack R. Dinsmore, another founder, said, "As a contributor of law information to veterinarians, Hank Hannah has no peers. To have someone sort out information and laws of the land was an important thing he did for us."

Serving as legal counsel for the Illinois State VMA for more than three decades also familiarized Hannah with veterinarians' legal concerns. State veterinary associations from coast to coast engaged him as a speaker.

In counseling the profession, Hannah drew a distinction between a genuine interest and self-interest driven by protectionism. Hannah, who particularly enjoyed writing animal-related briefs, said he could sometimes tell from the language in a legal opinion that the judge was an animal lover.

Hannah taught law for 61 years. He was professor emeritus of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois, where he had held a joint appointment in the colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture. In 1952, the veterinary college dean had asked him to begin teaching veterinary jurisprudence. Soon, Hannah saw other places the law could be applied in veterinary practice. After retirement, he taught agricultural law at Southern Illinois University School of Law.

He published several books on veterinary and agricultural law.

A decorated World War II veteran, Hannah parachuted into Normandy and Holland, commanded a battalion in Normandy, and helped plan the invasion of Holland.

He and his wife, Bowie, lived at the home they called White Oaks in downstate Texico, Ill. He loved to study nature and the environment, fish and grow food on their land, travel, play music, do woodworking, and serve his community.

Memorials may be made to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, or to Rotary Foundation, c/o Hughey Funeral Home, P.O. Box 721, Mount Vernon, IL 62864.