In Memoriam: UConn Law Professor Colin C. Tait

Tait joined the UConn Law faculty in 1966 and retired in 1999, taking emeritus status as a research scholar.

Professor Colin Tait of UConn Law.

Professor Colin Tait taught evidence, torts, and environmental law and served as associate dean from 1975 to 1977.

Professor Colin C. Tait, a highly respected member of the UConn Law faculty for 33 years, died on February 23, 2024.

An expert on evidence law and environmental law, he co-wrote the authoritative “Tait’s Handbook of Connecticut Evidence,” which has been updated through six editions, with Judge Eliot D. Prescott as co-author of the later versions. Tait’s work on the Connecticut Law Revision Commission was central to producing the Connecticut Code of Evidence, which was adopted in 2000.

Tait’s personal commitment to environmental causes underscored his contributions to environmental law. He was known to ride his bicycle from his home in Colebrook to the law school campus, when it was in West Hartford, a distance of about 30 miles.

Tait was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 1950, he attended Cornell University, served in the U.S. Air Force for two years, and attended Yale Law School. He joined Robinson & Cole in Hartford, where he became a partner before joining the UConn Law faculty in 1966.

In a 2014 interview with Thomas B. Scheffey of the Connecticut Law Tribune, Tait described the decision to leave the firm for the life of an academic: “I said to myself, ‘Think, Colin, is this really what you want to do with your life? Spend the next 30 years in a big law firm on the 40th floor of a hermetically sealed building?”

At UConn, Tait taught evidence, torts, and environmental law and served as associate dean from 1975 to 1977. He was a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School in 1973 and 1979. In 1995, the Connecticut Law Review honored him for his legal scholarship and service to the legal community. In 1999, he retired as the Zephaniah Swift Professor of Law and took emeritus status as a research scholar.

“Colin and I were colleagues and friends for over 35 years,” said Lewis S. Kurlantzick, current UConn Law Zephaniah Swift Professor of Law Emeritus and Oliver Ellsworth Research Professor.  “He welcomed me, always willing to engage on questions about procedure and evidence.  At the same time, as an outstanding athlete, he regularly thrashed me on the squash court. The model of his personality was steadiness. That characteristic was manifest in the even manner in which he handled his retirement and illness. Colin and I were in touch throughout his retirement, mostly by me sending him articles about his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. E-mail communications from him always ended with ‘Cheers.’ His loss is profound.”

Professor Colin Tait standing next to a white oak tree that was planted in his honor on the campus of UConn Law.
UConn Law recognized Professor Colin Tait’s contributions with a planting of a white oak in 2014.

In 2013, Tait moved to Vermont. He returned to Connecticut in 2014 for a ceremony honoring his contributions to the UConn School of Law with the planting of a white oak in the campus quad. That year the Connecticut Law Tribune also recognized him with its Publisher’s Award.

Tait was married for 63 years to Deborah (Blodget) Tait, an art teacher who died in 2019. They had four children.

“The UConn Law community was deeply saddened to hear of Professor Tait’s passing,” Dean Eboni S. Nelson said. “His decades of service at the law school left a remarkable legacy, and we will be forever grateful for his many contributions to our community and beyond.”

A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Colin’s name to Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice or to the Montpelier Senior Activity Center.