Rowland F. Kirks, 62, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and a former member of the D.C. Board of Education, died of cancer yesterday at Walter Reed Hospital.
One of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger's closest friends, he had been appointed to the directorship by the Supreme Court in June, 1970.
In addition to serving on the school board from 1953 to 1962. Mr. Kirks had been president of the National University Law School, now part of George Washington University, and an assistant attorney general and director of the Office of Allen Property Custodian at the Justice Department.
In a statement issued yesterday, Burger called Mr. Kirks' death a "great loss to the judicial system . . . He introduced broad programs of computer controls, new methods of statistical analysis and a new method of jury utilization; the latter alone had saved more than $2 million annually. His tenure as director saw the creation of the new profession of court administrators and his work was a major factor in this development."
The Administrative Office of the Vermont Ave., NW, serves as the business office of the federal judicial system. This includes the 11 federal circuit courts of appeals and the 94 federal district courts of the country.
Mr. Kirks supervised the federal judicial budgets and prepared analyses of caseloads and trends in the various courts.
He reported to the semiannual meetings of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is composed of 25 judges from the various circuits and meets at the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice serves as chairman.
Mr. Kirks also reported regularly on his work to Congress and through the Attorney General, to the President.
He was both highly praised and criticized for his efforts to moderate the administration of the federal court system.
This included computerization of jury selections, which some court authorities said cut down on the waste of jurors' time and reduced the number of jurors needed. Court authorities also cited his bringing the U.S. magistrates system into full use, reducing pressures on heavily worked federal judges.
But staff members once complained loudly because he had hired a group of former military officers to modernize the statistical system.
At the time he was appointed director, Mr. Kirks was a major general in Command for the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the eastern area of West Virginia.
He retired then after 35 years of military service.
In 1972, Mr Kirks and the Chief Justice were accused of meddling with consumer legislation before Congress. Both denied the accusation and the matterwent no further.
During his tenure on the D.C. school board, Mr. Kirks found himself the center of controversy because of the programs he proposed.
He was backed in his demand to provide across-the-board services for problem children rather than excluding them from school. His proposal to give instruction at all levels in rapid reading and comprehension as a means of forestalling reading deficiencies also was favored.
But his proposal to raise the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18 and his suggestion that the ban on corporal punishment might be eased drew heavy opposition.
Born in Washington, Mr. Kirks was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in law from National University. He was an assistant professor of law there while earning a doctorate of judicial science.
A cavalry officer, he was called to active duty in World War II, and was sent to Europe as the 9th Army's chief of combate intelligence. He also was chief of foreign trade at headquarters of the United States Group Control for Germany.
After the war, Mr. Kirks returned to National University as a professor of law. He became dean of the law school in 1949, and president of the university in 1953.
He was with the Justice Department in 1952-53, and met another assistant attorney general, Warren E. Burger. It was the beginning of a close friendship.
Mr. Kirks left National University in 1954 to become legislative counsel for the National Automobile Dealers Association. He left that organization in 1960, and for the next 10 years was general counsel and director of government relations of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
He was textile industry adviser to the federal government's delegation negotiating trade and tariff agreements in Geneva in 1961-62.
Mr. Kirks was one of three incorporators of the Supreme Court Historical Society. He was a member former chairman of the advisory board of the Salvation Army and a life-member of the Kiwanis Foundation for Crippled Children.
He was a member of the American and D.C. Bar associations and admitted to practice before the Supreme Court.
He held the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation George Washington Honor Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal, the country's highest noncombate decoration.
He is survived by his wife, Virginia Louise Potter Kirks, and two children, Virginia Louise and Rowland Falconer II, all of the home in Washington and his mother, Elia Kirks, also of Washington.