Legal History

Law School Dropouts and Rejects Include Famous Dancer, US Presidents and Supreme Court Justice

Updated: Those nursing hurt feelings from a law school rejection can take heart: Some successful and famous people suffered similar disappointment. And if you are in law school and considering dropping out, you are also in good company.

The Faculty Lounge and PrawfsBlawg are naming some of the prominent people who didn’t stay in law school, or didn’t get accepted at the law school of their choice. Entertainer Gene Kelly, for example, briefly attended the University of Pittsburgh law school, but left to concentrate on his dance career. CBS News mentions the little-known fact in a story on a centennial celebration marking the anniversary of Kelly’s birth.

Some famous people who were rejected include Justice Thurgood Marshall, admitted to Howard University’s law school after a rejection by the University of Maryland, and President George W. Bush, who opted for Harvard Business School after rejection by the University of Texas law school.

Bitter Lawyer highlighted several other law school dropouts in posts here and here. They include: singer Paul Simon (Brooklyn), former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (Georgetown), and Diane Sawyer (the University of Louisville).

Two Columbia Law School dropouts who became president—Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt—were awarded posthumous degrees, according to a press release. FDR passed the bar and practiced law, though he didn’t graduate. The Business Insider lists four other presidential law school dropouts—Woodrow Wilson, William McKinley, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Harry Truman—though Wilson and McKinley also became lawyers.

Updated at 9:45 a.m. to include information from Bitter Lawyer and at 10 a.m. to include information from Business Insider.

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