David Levy’s path to UVA Law was rather unique. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Levy was a product of schools closing in the late 1950s. As a result, he wound up at Norfolk Academy and eventually Harvard where he majored in U.S. history. Not knowing what kind of career he might pursue after graduation, his mother offered him some direction: He would become a lawyer just like his grandfather. Levy agreed to apply to one law school—UVA—and proceed with his law degree if accepted. Having practiced law for almost four decades now, Levy is glad he listened to his mother, at least in this regard.
Levy witnessed what he describes as a “sea change in culture” in the 1960s. Theirs was an active and challenging class, Levy says. Students responded to Vietnam by defying the status quo both in dress and in action. Not far from Levy’s mind was his draft classification: 1-A. His lottery number was 45, a number he was sure would land him in Vietnam. As luck would have it, a skull surgery he had undergone as a child made him ineligible for combat. Bounced from the draft in 1968, Levy boarded a plane for Paris where he revolted with the students who brought down Charles de Gaulle’s administration. He continued his travels around Europe afterward which included running with the bulls in Spain.
Levy wanted to protest the war, but that desire posed a dilemma to any law student who could forfeit their career with a criminal conviction. With all the risks in mind, Levy and other law students joined their peers in Washington, DC on November 15, 1969, for the Moratorium March, as student marshals. They were there to offer legal advice to protestors, but were teargassed instead.
"It created a sort of difficult stance for a law student, because one wanted to be a protester. But one also knew that you were applying [to] The Bar. You were going to be a lawyer, you could not have criminal convictions on your record."
The following semester, Levy and his roommates participated in the “Honk-for-Peace,” one of the main May Days protests. A few days prior, the marshals had come together, although Levy does not remember the details. What he does remember is that he and his roommates became the main point of contact. They included their number on marshal communications and encouraged people to write it on their hands. Levy ended up manning the phone lines despite wanting to be out on the streets with the other marshals. In that capacity, he offered people advice as to what they should do in a police encounter. He recalls one conversation in which he spoke with a fraternity leader after the arrests had taken place on May 8th. They discussed the option of using the fraternity house as bail money but, as far as Levy can recall, that never happened.
For Levy, the marshal movement aligned closely with his work for UVA’s Legal Aid Society, an organization that still exists today and offers free legal services to individuals who could otherwise not access legal counsel. Levy says there was a great deal of crossover between legal aid and the marshals because they shared many of the same core political values. Levy, along with other legal aid volunteers, went into underserved communities, interviewed people with legal issues, and tried to match them with attorneys. Their ultimate goal was to garner funds from the OEO Legal Services Program. They achieved success in 1970 with a federal grant.
"And I was very drawn to the idea that this was the purpose of the student Legal Aid Society, to provide a legal justice system to everyone ... to see ourselves in some ways as an agent for change to make the legal system work and be equal."
In retrospect, Levy’s tenure with the marshals and legal aid had a significant impact on his career. After practicing law in Rhode Island, Levy returned to Charlottesville a few years later to head the Albemarle Legal Aid Society. Still practicing family law at the age of 74, Levy loves the “people aspects” of his job. His desire to help people motivated him at UVA law and still drives his work ethic today.