Richmond law school is latest to drop slaveholding namesake

  • Since 1920, the school had officially been named for a tobacco businessman and donor who owned slaves
  • At least five law schools have removed references to historic figures in the past two years

Sept 26 (Reuters) – The University of Richmond is removing an early donor from the official name of its law school after discovering that he owned slaves, marking the latest in a string of law school name changes tied to the conduct of historical figures.

The university’s board of trustees on Friday unanimously voted to change the law school’s official name from T.C. Williams School of Law to the University of Richmond School of Law. Former namesake Thomas C. Williams, Sr. operated two Virginia-based tobacco companies in the 1800s and owned and managed slaves in both his professional and personal capacity, according to newly uncovered government documents and historical newspaper records.

“We recognize that some may be disappointed or disagree with this decision,” university president Kevin Hallock said in a Sept. 24 email to students. “We also recognize the role the Williams family has played here and respect the full and complete history of the institution.”

Also on Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill renaming the University of California Hastings College of the Law as the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco. That long-debated change could go into effect as early as Jan. 1, 2023 and eliminates reference to Serranus Hastings—a former California Supreme Court justice who founded the law school in 1878.

The law school had endorsed the change in July and state lawmakers signed off in August. Historians say Hastings orchestrated the killings of Native Americans in order to remove them from ranch land he purchased in Northern California.

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