George Cameron Coggins

** The Coggins and Westerbeke families will host a public joint Celebration of Life for both George Cameron Coggins and William Edward Westerbeke, colleagues and friends for 45 years, on November 8th at the Union Depot, 402 N 2nd St. from 4:00-6:00. **


George Cameron Coggins was born on January 27,1941 in Pontiac, Michigan to Charles and Jean Coggins. He grew up in the small town of Holly, Michigan, the oldest of three children where Charles (Chuck) was a superintendent of schools and Jean was a high school English teacher. George was a 1959 graduate from Holly High School (and was looking forward to his upcoming 60th high school reunion next month) where he lettered in four sports, highlighted by a runner-up finish in the 1959 state high school class B finals. He went on to Central Michigan University on a football scholarship where he says his curse was “making good grades while being a total screw off.” He then attended the University of Michigan Law school where he was on the Law Review. After graduation, and a few months reading and relaxing on the beaches of Hawaii awaiting the results of the bar exam, he began his law career with the San Francisco firm of McCutcheon, Doyle, Brown, and Enersen. On January 27, 1968 he married Margaret Ann Harding, his college sweetheart, and they enjoyed discovering the City by the Bay and all the nature California has to offer. A serendipitous meeting at a law school convention in San Francisco changed his trajectory to teaching. He began his long career in the area of environmental law at the University of Kansas in 1970. During his 40 years at the law school he was a prolific author, writing over 40 articles and a dozen major law text books with a legal pad and pencil instead of a computer, maintaining his “black warrior #2 pencil never crashed.” Longtime collaborator Professor Rob Glicksman notes, “George, along with Charles Wilkinson, reinvented the field of public natural resources law and together they wrote the case book still considered the standard in most American Law Schools, Federal Public Land and Resources Law.” He received many prizes for scholarly work including being named the Frank Edwards Tyler Distinguished Professor of Law in 1983. George was a frequent speaker at many conventions and a visiting professor at Notre Dame, North Carolina, Lewis and Clark, Texas, Denver, Cambridge University (UK), and Vienna Law Schools. Former KU Law School Dean Mike Davis said George “ranked at or near the top of prolific scholars in KU law history.”

George was an active supporter of the Sierra Club, Kansas Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy. He was known for his “refreshingly irreverent” perspective on many topics, his acerbic wit, his signature mustache, and his speed at the Times Sunday crossword. He was an avid reader of many genres, supporter of the Lawrence Public Library, a die-hard fan of the Jayhawks and the Maize and Blue, and a talented Sudoku player. But his first love was his family: Margie, his wife of over 50 years, children Andrea, Becca (Noah Isackson), Michael (Tricia) and his grandchildren Will and Hayes Isackson and Tess Coggins, brother Dale (Jan Coggins) and sister Kathy Hughes (Steve), cousins, nieces and nephews. He lived his life on his terms, with a generous heart, and a curious mind. At age 78, he had no regrets.

“Peace Out,”GCC.

A celebration of his great run will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Lawrence Public Library and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street Lawrence, KS. 66044


17 Condolences

  1. Beth Ann Bittlingmayer on September 1, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Dear Margie – I am thinking of you, and, of your children. Many, many, many hugs to you. I know that you are at peace but that doesn’t make it easy. Blessings to each of you.
    Beth Ann Bittlingmayer

  2. Mary Taghavi on September 1, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Dear Margie and Family, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to all of you. I wish I could take away your sadness. Please take great care and know that I am always here for you. Love you.

  3. Robert C Casad on September 2, 2019 at 7:58 am

    I was deeply saddened to hear of George’s passing. George was a friend and colleague for nearly a half century. He was a great scholar and teacher.he contributed much to building the stature of the law school to where it is today. our condolences and best wishes go out to Marge and the family.

    Bob Casad

  4. Harlanne Roberts on September 2, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Dear Margie and Family,
    The passing of George leaves a huge hole in our community and environmental law. What a brilliant and witty man. I will alway remember our times in the 80’s at KU gatherings. Love to you and may the memories of your life together sustain you now and in the future.

    Harlanne (Papanek) Roberts

  5. Bill Modrcin on September 2, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Margie, I’m so sorry for your loss. The world is a far less interesting place without George. After surviving his verbal sparring, dealing with angry judges was easy! My sympathy.

  6. Sherry Tamerius on September 2, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Margie, I am so sorry for your loss. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  7. Elaine Hick on September 2, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Just a few of my favourite quotes from my cousin George:
    “I’m a lawyer for the fish and the trees.”
    “If it’s good in moderation then it’s great in excess.”
    “If there is even one nickel for my kids to inherit then I’ve miscalculated.”
    George lives on in our laughter and love for life.

  8. Libby Allen on September 3, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Mrs. Coggins,

    I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved husband, George. You impacted my life in such a wonderful way and although I didn’t know Mr. Coggins very well, I knew two had a beautiful love story. You taught us how to live a full life and I hope you find comfort in knowing he’s watching over you all as you continue to live yours.

    Sending love,
    Libby Allen

  9. Dan Tarlock on September 3, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Dear Margie, Vivien and I were shocked and saddened to hear of George’s death. We, along with our three children, remember with great fondness the wonderful semester that we spent in Lawrence, thanks to the generous hospitality that you and George offered us. George was the model of an engaged but fiercely honest law professor, the likes of whom we are unlikely to see again. With great affection, Vivien and Dan

  10. Rodney B. Proffitt on September 4, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I remember when I won a big case in the Colorado Supreme Court, my first thought was to send the briefs and decision to Prof. Coggins. The case dealt with water and land use jurisdiction of a local municipality on public land, and the 1872 Mining Act. I credit him with making that win possible. His sense of humor in class and personal engagement with students are my best memories of the man. My condolences to his family.

  11. Larry Blades on September 4, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    George was definitely one of a kind. And of a great kind in so many ways. Committed to his causes and his passions, from fixing up houses to publishing about preserving the environment, to Margie, his wife of so many years, and–to intra-mural football.

    Not to be overlooked is that George was one of the big cogs in a winning intra-mural football team of 1970 comprised, of all the most unlikely athletes, a bunch of law professors. But four of those law professors, including George, had played college football.

    I remember the questions he asked a bewildered interviewee for a faculty position, who wasn’t doing very well in his interview. Perhaps in an effort to rescue him, George asked him some different kinds of questions, such as, “Can you run a button-hook?” “How’s your stop-and-go.?” “How are you at running a fly pattern?” We just couldn’t hire anyone to the Kansas law faculty who drew a blank on such important questions.

    George was truly a man for all seasons

  12. Pat Bates on September 7, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Margie and Family,
    I was so saddened to hear of George’s passing. I have so many fond memories of George and all of our family gatherings in those early Law School days in the 70s and 80s. What a special, unique sole he was. Thinking of you, Andrea, Becca, Michael and your entire family. I’m sure George will Iive on in each of you. My heart goes out to you at this time.

  13. Steven Alan Bennett on September 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Dear Margie,
    There was no one I enjoyed arguing with more than George! We fought like dogs and cats in the classroom and drank beer as friends outside. There was nobody I have come across in the many years since law school who challenged or tested me more. He will certainly love on in my memories! What an intellect! What a loss.
    All condolences,
    Steven Bennett

  14. Ronna on October 3, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Oh Margie, You and your family have my deepest sympathy. I am so very sorry to hear George had passed.

  15. Suzi Cammon on October 9, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Margie and children – George’s passing breaks my heart. You all were such a unit. From being Michael’s guidance counselor, to cheering for him on the high school football field – you all were inevitably there for each other. Please accept our most sincere sympathy in his death. For a life well lived and a family to be most proud of – rest assured that the love of this one great guy will always be with you! Suzi Cammon and Casey Lauer

  16. Joanie Sarno on October 19, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Dear Margie Andrea Rebecca and Michael. One of the most profound gifts in my life was to be a part of your family. I love you all. And I always will.

  17. Alan Galbraith on February 19, 2020 at 12:01 am

    I hope I am not too late. There was no aspiring lawyer more different from me and no one in law school I enjoyed so much as George. He kept me up all night playing bridge. We were both in SF when he asserted his Michigan Daily news credentials, claimed he was an admirer of Dean Rusk, sought to penetrate a police line outside the Fairmont Hotel, failed, and without more detail sought me out as his personal lawyer to deal with his unfortunate police interaction, putting me in the position of discussing what I could appropriately due with the California Supreme Court Justice (and former CA attorney general) for whom I was working. George and his fantastic (leveling) wife would attend my wedding to Sarah in Berkeley in April 1969.
    I regret deeply that we did not maintain close contact over the years. I find it almost incredible (and most admiring) that he would become an outstanding legal scholar. Bottom line: I enjoyed and learned from my early friendship with George — and the well deserved accolades are absolutely consistent with what I saw in law school, serving with George on the law review. With condolences, especially to Margie, Alan Galbraith (

Leave a Condolence