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Arkansas law professor who helped hire Bill Clinton dies

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Albert Witte, who taught six decades at the University of Arkansas School of Law and helped hire then-26-year-old Bill Clinton, has died at the age of 92.

Witte, who also previously served as president of the NCAA, died Wednesday of natural causes, the university said. University of Arkansas School of Law spokeswoman Darinda Sharp said that Witte's son, Rob Witte, told the university that his father died peacefully while surrounded by family, friends and loved ones.

''He taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law for nearly six decades - that's almost two-thirds of the school's 91-year existence,'' law school Dean Stacy Leeds said. ''He has shaped generations of graduates through his intellect, insight and legendary quick wit.''

Born in 1923 in Pittsburgh, Witte served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and joined the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville faculty in 1957. He served on the committee that interviewed Clinton, who'd applied for a teaching job even though he had not yet graduated law school.

In an oral history recorded at the school in 2008, Witte said he interviewed Clinton on a Sunday at the Fayetteville Country Club. He joked that the future president reminded him of the comic-strip character Li'l Abner.

''He's about the same height. He had that big mass of hair, and but the most striking comparison was that he had what clearly was his high school graduation suit on,'' Witte said. But the committee hired Clinton in 1973 and Hillary Clinton in 1974 as law school faculty.

''Al Witte was a wise counselor to Hillary and me when we were young faculty members at the law school,'' Clinton said in a statement released Wednesday night. ''For more than 40 years, he never stopped the friendship or the shrewd - and often hilarious - observations and advice. He was a real gift to decades of law students and one of the university's greatest assets. I wish he could have lived 90 more years. ''

Witte retired in 1994 but continued to teach as an adjunct professor. Throughout his career, he served as the academic representative to the athletic department and eventually served a term as NCAA president. He said in his oral history that he viewed the work with a legal eye, not as a sports fan.

Former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles called Witte ''an influential leader within college athletics.''

''He was a valued adviser to me and to the Razorback program and his counsel was invaluable in many pivotal moments of our history, including the decision to move to the Southeastern Conference,'' Broyles said. ''As a former president of the NCAA, he had a keen understanding of what was happening throughout the country and provided us with unparalleled expertise.''