Law Schools

2 law schools change names because of namesakes' notorious pasts

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Two law schools are officially changing their names after learning more about their namesakes’ long-ago conduct.

The University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law will be changed to the University of Richmond School of Law as a result of a Sept. 23 vote by its board of trustees, report Reuters, Above the Law and a press release.

T.C. Williams’ family had given the school $25,000 as a memorial gift in 1890 to establish the law program. Several of his children also supported the school with donations.

But Williams had owned slaves as an individual and through the tobacco businesses that he owned, according to recently located government records.

A second law school got the go-ahead to change its name as a result of a bill signed by Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 23, according to a press release.

The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco will change its name to the UC College of the Law in San Francisco, or UC Law SF, beginning Jan. 1.

The school sought the name change because of the history of the law school’s namesake and founder, Serranus Clinton Hastings, a politician and California’s first chief justice. Hastings helped organize the massacres of hundreds of Native Americans.

Another law school namesake that is the subject of controversy is former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. He is known for the landmark decision Marbury v. Madison, which held that it is the courts’ job “to say what the law is.” But he also bought, owned and sold slaves.

The University of Illinois Chicago School of Law removed a Marshall reference in its name in May 2021. A second law school, the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, should do the same, according to a recommendation by an ad hoc committee.

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