The Lost “Legal Brief”

In November 2005 I learned that Piepkorn’s son-in-law, Richard Hoffmann, was the actual author of this memorandum. I had asked him and Piepkorn’s daughters if they knew anything about this document, but they had no memories of it until Richard saw his handwriting on the PDF copy posted on the Center website. By editing the document and passing it on to President Tietjen, Piepkorn in effect endorsed this approach.

Note that I have not had time to edit the following.

In the days following Blessed Arthur Carl Piepkorn’s death on December 13, 1973, reports circulated that what appeared to be a “legal brief” was found “in his typewriter” or “on his desk” in his home office. Until 2004 no one knew anything more about that document.

A clue was available in Seminary President (1969-73) John H. Tietjen’s Memoirs in Exil: Confessional Hope and Institutional Conflict. In his memoirs, Tietjen refers to the day of Piepkorn’s death as follows:

“Later that day in the campus mail I received a twelve-page document on which [Piepkorn] had been working: ‘The Constitutionality of the actions of the President of the Synod, various Boards of the Synod, the 1973 Convention of the Synod, and the present Board of Control of Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, beginning with the appointment of the Fact Finding Commission by the President of the Synod.'” (p. 183)

A breakthrough came in the summer of 2005, when Dr. David Lindberg, Professor Emeritus of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, was working on some of files in the Tietjen Papers as a volunteer in the Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at the same time that I was working elsewhere in the Archives on the Piepkorn Papers. When I was introduced to Dr. Lindberg, he told me that he had come across a number of documents relating to Piepkorn. I replied that I would very much like to see them. A short while later he came to me and handed me a copy of this twelve-page document and several others. (Lindberg found the twelve-page document in what was tentatively labeled Box 30, Folder 28).

Piepkorn had undoubtedly placed that twelve-page document in campus mail either on Thursday, December 12, or–possibly–late on the morning of December 13 as he walked to the barber shop where he sustained his fatal heart attack.

Since the twelve-page document resembles a legal brief and involves legal issues, it is reasonable to assume that the “legal brief” found “in his typewriter” or “on his desk” was the original copy of the twelve-page document that Tietjen found in campus mail. It is very possible that one page was in Piepkorn’s typewriter and the others on his desk, explaining the difference between the two reports about it.

A PDF file of the twelve-page document from the Tietjen Papers may be accessed below. The editing on the document is typical of Piepkorn’s style and in his hand. The smudges on the top of page one were caused by my attempt to erase some penciled notes I had made there. The Director


Note: Most recent web browsers are now able to display PDF files directly. If your browser does not display this file or automatically open it for you in a PDF reader, you may download and install Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader from here: