Richard Underwood

Richard Underwood photo

About Richard Underwood: Richard H. Underwood, American legal scholar and award-winning legal nonfiction and true crime writer, is the Edward T. Breathitt Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Underwood was born in Columbus, Ohio, where he spent his early years. He graduated summa cum laude from OSU in 1969 and then entered the army. He served four years, with tours of duty in Germany and Vietnam, and later served as the security officer at the Presidio of San Francisco. After law school, Richard Underwood served as a law clerk for a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, in Cincinnati.

For more on Richard Underwood, visit his website or Facebook page.

Richard Underwood's Speaking Engagements: Professor Underwood's programs include diverse subjects including criminal investigations and evidence; nineteenth-century U.S. criminal law and trial practice; and the legal cases and characters memorialized in his books "Gaslight Lawyers." He also presents a musicology lecture, Murdered Girls, dealing with legal cases memorialized in Southern murder ballads, the topic of his book "CrimeSong."



Gaslight Lawyers cover

GASLIGHT LAWYERS: CRIMINAL TRIALS & EXPLOITS IN GILDED AGE NEW YORK (2017): A fascinating history of crime and punishment, "Gaslight Lawyers" paints a serious but entertaining portrait of colorful characters, courtroom drama, and the emerging importance of forensic science and medical-legal jurisprudence in Gilded Age New York City.

From the 1870s to the early 1900s, post-Civil War New York City was becoming a wonder city of commerce and invention, art and architecture, and emerging global prominence. It was also a city of crime, corruption, poverty, slums, and tenements teeming with newcomers and standing in sharp contrast to the city mansions and the extravagant lifestyle of the rising American aristocracy. The New York City of those days is not just the venue of the intriguing true stories told in this book—it is also a supporting actor in them. The city and its innocent inhabitants needed to be protected—order had to be maintained. Then, as now, malefactors had to be brought to justice. But not every victim was quite so innocent, and not every defendant was as guilty as he (or she) looked.

The Gaslight Era has been called the Second Golden Age of the New York Bar. "Gaslight Lawyers" sheds new light on a gallery of notables of the day, including the exploits of famous William "Big Bill" Howe and his archrival, prosecutor Francis Wellman, along with trial tactics and ethics of the day—skullduggery on both sides. The book also chronicles judges and politicians, police bungling and corruption, and famous physicians and "alienists," like Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton, the grandson of Alexander Hamilton. Other characters illuminate the social conditions in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New York City.

Drawing from the experience of a legal scholar and from a wealth of meticulous research gleaned from trial transcripts, other court records, contemporary newspaper stories, and memoirs, Richard H. Underwood also reconstructs and recounts the absorbing legal drama of a number of spectacular criminal cases. "Gaslight Lawyers" is a compelling, witty, and insightful account of an important era in American legal history, individual human experiences and tragedies, and society at large. It reminds us to acknowledge and deal with biases that continue to manifest themselves in our criminal justice systems today and to be mindful that we "are the guardians of the law."

31st Annual
Buckeye Book Fair
November 3, 2018
9:30 to 4:00
Fisher Auditorium Wooster, Ohio
$2 Admission
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