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.
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