David Vernon held degrees from Harvard University and New York University. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy. After time as a member of the faculty at New York University Law School, University of Houston Law School and University of New Mexico Law School, he came to Iowa in 1966. He served as dean of University of Iowa College of Law from 1966 to 1971.
As a dean, he introduced the small-section program, giving 1Ls a more individualized first year of law school. In addition to serving as dean, he was also a law professor at Iowa from 1966 until the time of his death in 2001. His work focused on contracts, commercial law, and remedies.