Library Acquires Jefferson Letter on Law School’s Founding

Just months before he died, Thomas Jefferson completed one of his last tasks in the project to establish the University of Virginia: the selection of the University’s first law professor. In an April 1826 letter recently acquired by the UVA Law Library, Jefferson wrote to members of the University’s Board of Visitors that John Tayloe Lomax had accepted the professorship of law and would commence law classes in July 1826.

Early this summer, the Law Library was alerted to the letter’s upcoming auction at Sotheby’s. Prior to its sale at Sotheby’s, the letter had once been part of the James S. Copley Library, a large private collection of American manuscripts, books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps. As a circular letter to the Board of Visitors, Jefferson wrote, signed, and sent copies to every member of the Board. The New York Public Library holds James Madison’s copy in its collections; the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA holds the copy sent to Joseph Carrington Cabell. Based on markings on the UVA Law Library’s newly acquired letter, we believe that this is the copy sent to James Breckenridge.

The Law School Opens

Jefferson’s letter is an important institutional record in its own right, but its significance becomes more apparent in the context of other sources from the same time period. Based on further research, we know that the letter marked the end of a prolonged search for the University’s first law professor, during which Jefferson and Madison had scrutinized the credentials, elocution, and politics of numerous candidates. Their stringent criteria—must be a devoted patriot, a native Virginian, a legal philosopher more than a “common-place” lawyer, and an effective public speaker—coupled with the difficulty of convincing established jurists to move to central Virginia, resulted in the law chair remaining unfilled when University classes began in 1825.[1] Finally, in this April 1826 circular letter to members of the Board of Visitors, Jefferson announced Lomax’s hiring and the much-anticipated opening of the new Law School.

As with other aspects of UVA’s founding, the University’s historical relationship with slavery underlies the newly acquired letter and gives perspective to our understanding of the document. The opening of the Law School depended on the labor of enslaved people. Lomax’s own undergraduate education had been funded by his uncle, John Tayloe III, one of the largest slaveholders in Virginia at the time. Twenty-six male students, most from slaveholding families, formed Lomax’s first law class. Law lectures were held in Pavilion III, which had been built in large measure by enslaved laborers.[2] As the letter joins other primary sources in UVA archives, it offers the opportunity, in line with ongoing initiatives at the University of Virginia, to investigate and tell a full story of the University’s founding, particularly the founding’s deep connections to slavery.

Thomas Jefferson's architectural plans for Pavilion III
Thomas Jefferson’s elevation and floor plan for Pavilion III, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Teaching the Law

After assuming his professorship, Lomax implemented the law school’s early curriculum, which comprised two year-long sessions: legal procedures in the first, for those entering practice after one year’s preparation, and principles of law in the second. Eschewing Jefferson’s preference for Sir Edward Coke, Lomax taught Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries to first years for its “general map of the law,” followed by additional assigned texts. In the classroom, he “rigidly and critically” examined the students upon their readings “every other day.”[3]

During annual examinations, students submitted written answers to a committee of University faculty for review. Below are actual Law School questions from 1829.

  Public Examination, School of Law, 1829[4]

1.  What are the ages at which male and females are competent to different legal purposes? Viz.

Males. To take oath of allegiance? When at years of discretion to marry? To choose a guardian? To make a testament of personal estate (by the common law? By Act of Assembly)? To be an executor? To aliene land?

Females. To be betrothed? To be entitled to dower? When at years of discretion to consent or disagree to marriage? To bequeath personal estate? To choose a guardian? To be an executrix? To dispose of herself and land?

2. What four requisites are necessary to make a tenancy by curtesy?

3.  Of what two sorts is the remedy for false imprisonment? What are the four means which may be employed (at common law) for removing the injury? And which of them is now the most usual and effectual means in all manner of illegal confinement? What is the remedy by way of satisfaction of the injury?

The Jefferson letter will now be part of the Law Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Interested researchers should contact archives@law.virginia.edu.

 

[1] For examples of Jefferson’s and Madison’s correspondence regarding the law professorship search, see Jefferson to Breckenridge (“the appointment should not be given to a mere common-place lawyer”), 22 December 1824; Madison to Jefferson, 31 December 1824, 1 February 1825, and 4 August 1825. See also James Ambuske and Randall Flaherty, “Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson,” in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University, eds. John A. Ragosta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).

[2] For a biography of Lomax and the financial support he received from his uncle to attend St. John’s College in Annapolis, see E. Lee Shepard, “John Tayloe Lomax,” in Legal Education in Virginia 1779-1979: A Biographical Approach, ed. W. Hamilton Bryson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1982), 359; For John Tayloe III as one of the largest Virginia slaveholders in this time, see Richard S. Dunn, “Winney Grimshaw, a Virginia Slave, and Her Family,” in Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9, no. 3 (2011): 495; For a list of the first law students, see A catalogue of the officers and students of the University of Virginia Second session, commencing February 1st, 1826 (Charlottesville: Chronicle Steam Book Printing House, 1880); For the role of enslaved laborers in the construction of the UVA lawn buildings, the African American community at the University, and the University’s connection to slavery more generally, see The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, Report to President Teresa A. Sullivan, 2018.

[3] See Lomax’s 1829 outline of the Law School curriculum in “University Intelligence,” The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts & Sciences &c., August 5, 1829.

[4]University Intelligence: Public Examination,” in The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts & Sciences &c., September 9, 1829.

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians

Five years after the University of Virginia Law School began offering a “Women and the Law” course, which was supervised by two male professors in 1972, the Virginia Law Women (VLW) embarked on an extraordinary project. Six members of the group—Joan Kuriansky, Susan Buckingham Reilly, Diane Pitts, Jackie Blyn, Diane Smock, and Tracy Thompson—researched and wrote a legal handbook for women in Virginia titled Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians (1977). Modeled on a handbook created by the North Carolina Law School Women, the text was, as the introduction stated, “written by women for women who want the law to work for them…Today we have many more rights than we had even five years ago. But unless we are aware of these rights we cannot exercise them” (VL141 .Y817 1977). The handbook, funded by the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women, was written in lay terms and explained Virginia laws concerning marriage, divorce, adoption, property rights, insurance, taxes, employment, social welfare programs such as Medicare and worker’s compensation, birth control, abortion, the criminal justice system, and gay rights. It also included a section on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which had been approved by Congress in 1972 and was awaiting the requisite 38 states to ratify it into law at the time. In concert with consciousness-raising movements and projects across the country in that historical moment, the text made women conscious of the rights they were entitled to and the wrongs they suffered on account of their gender.

A stack of letters in a manila folder.
A stack of the many letters received by VLW requesting copies of the handbook.

While the Virginia Law Women distributed the handbook locally to libraries, organizations, agencies, alumni, and faculty, the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women distributed the bulk of the copies across the state. In the VLW manuscript collection here at Law Special Collections, one folder brims with requests for the handbook at the time of its publication. Dozens of women who read about the handbook in the newspaper wrote and asked for copies. Several stated that they planned on using the handbook to help them through their divorces. One high schooler even asked for the handbook as research for a paper on the ERA. The group received requests from rape crisis centers, women’s prison projects, libraries, law schools, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the ABA, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Women’s Law Coalition, and Legal Aid. The combination of the handbook’s popularity and the significant changes in laws applicable to women in this period resulted in revised editions in 1979 and 1984. In the second and third editions, new sections were added to reflect changing laws, such as Title VII, Title IX, establishing credit, mental health, and domestic violence. In addition to the revised editions, the VLW taught a local continuing education course on the handbook in 1980. While the handbook did not address everything (the absence of a discussion about the legal implications of American racial inequality is noticeable), it served as a much-needed resource for women across the state.

The most revised and debated section of the handbook was the section on the ERA. The VLW originally planned to openly advocate for the ERA in the first edition, but they deleted that paragraph, deciding simply to describe the amendment and its potential impact because their funder, the Commission on the Status of Women, asked them to remain “politically neutral” (VL16. L425L c.1). The second edition was delayed because the Commission asked them to remove the entire section on the ERA. The VLW objected, citing the copyright in their name and declaring the issue of the ERA “vital to the women of Virginia” (RG 209-82). The Commission eventually withdrew their request and the subsequent editions not only included a section on the ERA but a section that was longer than the original. While the ERA was not originally a partisan issue (it has appeared in the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties), the Commission’s anxieties about it have made me wonder whether they knew the story of the woman in the photograph on the front cover of the first and second editions. The photograph was of British suffragette Mary Leigh in her Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) uniform. Leigh was famous for throwing a hatchet at Prime Minister Asquith in 1912, among other militant activities.[1]

I’d like to end this post by reflecting on how these handbooks serve as a historical record of change. My own research focuses on women, politics, and property rights in eighteenth-century literature. I have spent more days than I can count poring over pamphlets about women’s legal rights, law books, and case documents from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. I inevitably came across the word “dower” in most of them. I never expected to come across that word in all three editions of Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians. I was shocked that dower, a widow’s right to a life estate in one-third of her husband’s real property which came into being sometime around 1310, appeared in a legal handbook for women in the late twentieth century.[2] Upon further research, I discovered that dower was not abolished in the state of Virginia until 1990. I discovered that the topic of my last blog post, the law of necessaries—an integral element of coverture—was the law in Virginia until 1983 when the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.[3]  Finally, I discovered the word “coverture”—the common law doctrine that rendered husband and wife legally one person after marriage, which required the husband to act as representative for them both and which stripped the wife of many legal rights—still appears in the Virginia state code in two places. The first place is section 55-35, a statute that reflects the Married Women’s Act of 1877, which enabled women to hold and dispose of property as if they were single women and declared that the wife’s property was not liable for her husband’s debts.[4]

The second place is section 55-38, a statute that states the wife’s right of entry into land cannot be barred by judgments during or after her husband’s lifetime.[5] Ironically, the word “coverture” appears in statutes that recognize women as legal persons independent of their husbands. In fact, these sections are scheduled to be repealed in October 2019 and replaced by revised sections that continue to use the word “coverture.” This means that the word “coverture” has been a part of Virginia law since the colony’s founding over 400 years ago and still is to this day.[6] To me at least as a scholar, the appearance of “coverture” in the state code raises the question of whether it was ever really abolished, or if it was simply reformed and remains part of our legal framework. Even though dower and coverture might seem like antiquated legal tools that we rightly dismissed long ago in the name of equity, they recently informed, and in the case of coverture may still inform, the way women are treated under the law in Virginia. These legal relics are one of the reasons why women would still find a handbook like this one useful today.

 

For more on the Virginia Law Women, see our collection (RG 209-82 and RG 209-2010) as well as the three handbooks (VL141 .Y817 1977, VL141 .Y817 1979, and VL141 .Y817 1984).

[1] Fern Riddell, “ Suffragettes, violence, and militancy,” British Library, 6 February 2018, https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragettes-violence-and-militancy.

[2] Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 144.

[3] See Va. Code Ann. § 55-37 (2012) and Mark S. Brennan, “The New Doctrine of Necessaries in Virginia,” University of Richmond Law Review 19 no. 2 (1985): 317–330.

[4] Va. Code Ann. § 55-35 (2012).

[5] Va. Code Ann. § 55-38 (2012).

[6] After October 2019, see Va. Code Ann. § 55.1–200 (Supp. 2019) and Va. Code Ann. § 55.1–203 (Supp. 2019).

Written by

Kelly Fleming

Kelly is a Curatorial Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections. She is also a Lecturer in the English department at the University of Virginia, where she earned her PhD in 2019. Her research focuses on the relationship between eighteenth-century British literature, women's property rights, politics, and material culture.

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Life at the Time: Photo Collection of the University and Charlottesville in the 1970s

In May 2018, UVA Law Special Collections purchased a small collection of photographs of UVA in the 1970s, including one contact sheet of Libel Show images, from an eBay vendor. When the collection arrived, we discovered that the seller had included three additional boxes of UVA-related negatives and photographs. Special Collections Assistant Sara Garcia-Pretelt has completed an initial inventory of this collection, and she describes here some of her most interesting discoveries.

The UVA Law Library’s newly acquired UVA/Charlottesville Photograph and Negatives Collection is comprised of images of the University of Virginia and the greater Charlottesville area during the late 1960s through the early 1970s. Among the photographs, contact sheets, and negatives found in this collection are scenes of student life, iconic Charlottesville landmarks, and important historic events.

The Law Libel Show: April 18, 1975

A long-standing UVA Law School tradition, the annual Libel show displays law students’ creativity and humor through skits and musical numbers. These photos were taken on April 18, 1975 for the production titled “A Sale of Two Cities or Salooney Tunes.” The law school student newspaper reported that the show “delighted crowds and embarrassed a few professors” (Virginia Law Weekly, 1975). Pictured below on the left is a student performing as “Charlie Blackbread” and pictured on the right is an unidentified law student actor.

Student Protests: May 5, 1970

The following photos were taken by various photographers during the May 1970 UVA student protests following the Kent State shootings and President Nixon’s announcement that US troops would be sent into Cambodia. A number of UVA Law students served as student marshals during these multi-day protests. Photographer Rip Payne captured scenes of the Virginia State Police preparing to address the student protests. Pictured are officers gathered outside of the Downtowner Motor Inn (later the Cavalier Inn) at Emmet and Ivy Roads and two officers with a police dog. On May 8, 1970, during a “honk for peace” student rally outside the Rotunda, the Virginia State Police enforced the 1968 Virginia riot act, charged the demonstration, and arrested 68 people. In his photograph titled “Lawn Arrest,” photographer Jim Carpenter documented police officers arresting a student on UVA grounds. Photographer John M. Atkins, Jr. captured in his photograph titled “Marshal,” a law student attempting to negotiate with a police officer about the arrest of another law student at the door of the Mayflower van, which the Virginia State Police used to transport arrestees to the Charlottesville police station. The band tied around the student’s arm signals his role as a legal marshal to keep the peace during the student protests.

UVA Grounds and Student Life ca. 1970

Also in this collection are images of iconic UVA landmarks such as the Corner and the Lawn in the 1970s. Pictured below is University Avenue just outside of Mincer’s Pipe Shop (now known as Mincer’s) where students and professors cross over onto Grounds. Today, the Corner’s crosswalks are infamous for the students that cross with no regard for oncoming cars as they rush to classes and meetings. Nearly 50 years later, these images still capture what it is like to live and study at UVA.

The Sports Scene

As the ‘Hoos advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984, students today are hoping for redemption for Tony Bennett’s principled and impressive team. Of relevance in this photograph collection are images of UVA men’s basketball games in the Spring of 1975, such as this photograph featuring star players Mark Iavaroni and Wally Walker playing in U-Hall.

Graduation

While most of this collection showcases student daily life, it also documents more significant moments like graduation. A symbolic UVA tradition, graduation on the Lawn is the culmination of students’ hard work over the last four years. Pictured below are families gathering on the Lawn by Old Cabell Hall to support their graduating students, while the Rotunda looms in the distance.

Unlike most of our digital collections, these images are presented under the fair use doctrine or with permission from the copyright holder, not under a Creative Commons license. Researchers can review the full collection of photographs and negatives at Law Special Collections on the third floor of the UVA Law Library.

Email: archives@law.virginia

Phone: 434-924-3023

Web: http://archives.law.virginia.edu/

Written by

Sara Garcia-Pretelt

Sara Garcia-Pretelt is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia studying French and Sociology. She currently works as a Special Collections Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Alumnus Profile: Napoleon Breedlove Ainsworth, Lawyer and Choctaw Nation Official

In recognition of National Native American Heritage Month, this post highlights UVA Law alumnus Napoleon Breedlove Ainsworth, a member of the Choctaw Nation and a law student from 1881 to 1882.

Napoleon B. Ainsworth, printed in Leaders and Leading Men of the Indian Territory (1911), 106.

Ainsworth, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, was born on February 26, 1856 in Skullyville, Oklahoma, part of Indian Territory. At age fifteen, he enrolled in Roanoke College in Salem, VA. According to Ainsworth’s 1885 testimony before a Congressional committee on “The Condition of Certain Indian Tribes,” the Choctaw government sent a group of students each year to universities and supplied them with stipends. Ainsworth was such a student, and he attended Roanoke College on a scholarship funded through Choctaw coal mining. He graduated from Roanoke in June 1880 with the Orator’s Medal and then enrolled in the University of Virginia for the 1881–1882 term to study law.

UVA School of Law, Catalogue of Students, 1881-1882. Ainsworth was the first UVA Law student to provide a residence location in Indian Territory.

Since a JD was not required to pass the bar at that time, this single session at UVA was enough for Ainsworth to pursue the career he already had chosen as a practicing lawyer. Prior to returning home to the Choctaw Nation, Ainsworth married Emily Thompson in Roanoke, and they eventually had three children, Ben P., Helen, and Agnes. Upon his return, Ainsworth was appointed draftsman for the Council of the Choctaw Nation by Chief Jack McCurtain. He then served as National Weigher at McAlester, in Indian Territory, for three years, before resigning in order to focus on his law practice. Following the death of the National Auditor, Ainsworth was appointed to that position, and then in 1887, he was reelected to fill the same office for a second term.

In 1889, Congress established the United States Court in Indian Territory. Ainsworth became a noted member of the bar of this Court, which held jurisdiction over civil cases between persons residing in Indian Territory and citizens, states, or territories of the United States. He remained active in the affairs of the Choctaw government until he died on August 20, 1922.

The law establishing a United States Court in Indian Territory (links to the full text).

Written by

Kelly Fleming

Kelly is a Curatorial Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections. She is also a Lecturer in the English department at the University of Virginia, where she earned her PhD in 2019. Her research focuses on the relationship between eighteenth-century British literature, women's property rights, politics, and material culture.

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A Weekend of Reflection

On the anniversary of last year’s neo-Nazi and white supremacist marches, we’re thinking about the ways in which the law school community has acted to promote justice in the past, the ways in which we can do more to promote justice in the present, and the library’s special role in preserving evidence of today’s struggles for future generations. We’ve selected several photographs from our archives that show some of the ways our students have engaged over the years with issues of justice, equity, and ethics. We hope that this weekend will provide an opportunity to reflect on the past year and recommit ourselves to working for a more just society.

1969

Representatives of the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society meet with government officials to oppose legislation giving governors a veto over legal services programs. (L-R): Office of Economic Opportunity Director Donald Rumsfeld, President’s Special Assistant on Urban Affairs Daniel P. Moynihan, Dean Paul E. Miller of Howard University Law School, Legal Assistance Society Projects Director Daniel D. Sullivan, and unidentified persons. See VLW December 11, 1969.

1970

Student protest
Students participate in a demonstration against the American invasion of Cambodia and the tragic slaying of students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in 1970. During the protests, some law students wore armbands identifying themselves as “legal marshals” available to inform other students of their rights.

1985

Student speaks with migrant worker
First-year law student Karl Racine talks to migrant worker Sene Lanoix as part of the Legal Assistance Society Migrant Farm Workers Project, 1985. See VLW, November 1, 1985.
Student protest
Students protest the South African policy of apartheid, 1985.

2017

Candlelight vigil
Community members gather in response to neo-Nazi and white supremacist marches, 2017.

 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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Remembering Gordon Hylton

I didn’t know Gordon Hylton long, but I worked with him enough to know that, as a scholar, he lived in avid pursuit of the facts. Ask him a question about Robert F. Kennedy’s law school days, and he would write you a detailed memo. Ask him when UVA Law awarded its first L.L.B. degree, and he would head straight to the archives. And then write you a detailed memo.   

With Gordon’s passing last week, I am grateful to have known him as a scholar, even for the short time that I did. Earlier this year, Gordon and I both found ourselves researching the topic of UVA’s desegregation. I had written up some research and, thinking that Gordon might have insights from his own work, I sent it to him for comment. He was gracious in telling me that I had discovered information that was new to him. Then came the memo of his interpretive differences. Facepalm.

Over the next months, in a series of spirited conversations, we debated, we listened, and we defended our points of view. It drove me crazy. But, this was the stuff of being a historian, so I loved it. Gordon and I maintained our interpretive differences, undeterred, but with a deeper understanding of the era and of the people whose lives composed this history. At the end of the day, we shared with each other that our conversations had helped us more than anything else to clarify our thinking on this particular topic. Working with Gordon cemented for me that there are no throwaway sentences when you are writing history. Every piece of information or interpretation you present is a claim about someone’s life, a real person’s life, and there is responsibility there to get it right. 

This week I read with interest about Gordon’s life, and I wondered what else I could learn about him with a new dive into the archives, both here at UVA Law and at Oberlin College, his undergraduate alma mater. Here are some highlights:

-Gordon played for the baseball team as an undergraduate at Oberlin in 1973.  One description in the school newspaper called him the “undeniable Virginian” and noted his “cool ease”:

“Baseball team crushes Kenyon, splits Heidelberg doubleheader,” The Oberlin Review, 8 May 1973, Courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives.

 -Gordon was, in particular scenarios, a man of few words. In 1972 at Oberlin he ran for Student Senate. While other candidates published 500-word campaign pitches, Gordon was succinct: “I think that the student senate do as little as is necessary.”[1]

Gordon Hylton, Oberlin College 1972 Yearbook Photo, Courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives.

-Many know that Gordon co-founded the North Grounds Softball League when he attended UVA Law as a student in the late 1970s. Did you also know that his nicknames at the time included giant of jockdom, Intramural Czar, and “Give-em-hell” Hylton?[2]

-Law Special Collections recently discovered a series of photographs in our archive that show just how at home Gordon seemed to have felt on the softball field (pictured here at a 1978 NGSL game presided over by then-MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn). Gordon’s the one with the beard:[3]

I will take what I have learned about Gordon this week and smile. I will also value the time that I had with him as a scholar. I am sure he will be present somehow when I footnote that next chapter, even when he is not there with a detailed response memo. I will continue to think deeply about the lives that make up history and find insight in debate.

-Randi Flaherty

• Thanks to the Oberlin College Archives for permission to use the yearbook image and newspaper article above.

•Special recognition goes to Law Special Collections staff member Ryan Donaldson, who poured through 18,000 unidentified photographs and discovered new images of Professor Hylton.

 

Banner image: Virginia Law Weekly staff, 1977, Barrister, UVA Law Special Collections.

[1]Special Senate Election Section,” The Oberlin Review, March 21, 1972. 

[2] Virginia Law Weekly, 9 December 1975 and 1 October 1976.

[3] Records of Virginia Law Weekly, UVA Law Special Collections, CCBY Image courtesy of Virginia Law Weekly and the University of Virginia Law Library.

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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Advancing Legal Research at UVA Law

This week concludes another semester of Advanced Legal Research at UVA Law.  A new crop of students stands ready to tackle the legal puzzles of case law, business, and legislation that they will face as practicing attorneys.  Teaching legal research methods has been one of the law library’s long-standing contributions to the law school curriculum.  Here we look back at the teaching of legal research at UVA Law over the past 100 years.

In the 1910s, first year law students took Legal Bibliography and Brief Making as a required course in their first term for “an intimate acquaintance with law books and skill in their use.” (UVA Law Catalogue, 1915-1916).  Here is the class’s exam from March 1919.  How would you fare?

1919 Examination in Legal Bibliography and Brief Making, Sutton Collection, Law Special Collections

 

Books were everything in Legal Bibliography and Brief Making in the 1920s, as the class notes of Phillip Burks (Law class of 1928) reveal.  Excerpt: “To meet the needs of lawyers, ‘selected cases’ of the various states have been published- they are known as American Decisions, 100 vols. to 1865- they contain valuable annotations.”

Notes for Legal Bibliography and Brief Making, Phillip Burks (Class of 1928), Law Special Collections

 

In 1944, Law Librarian Frances Farmer, the first woman to gain faculty status at UVA Law, taught Legal Bibliography as a required first year course. Farmer lectured on the methods and materials of legal research.  For their final assignment, students prepared briefs which they then tried in the law school’s moot court.

Law Librarian Frances Farmer, circa 1942-1944, Law Special Collections
Legal Bibliography, UVA Law Catalogue, 1943-1944

 

In the 1960s, the law school created a Legal Methods class, in addition to Farmer’s Legal Bibliography seminars. Like its predecessors, Legal Methods was a required first year course, and it introduced students to the problems of “legal analysis, research and writing, drafting and pleading, modern litigation and appellate practice” in a small group setting. Over time, Legal Methods evolved into the law school’s current Legal Writing & Research (LWR) course, which now has its own set of dedicated faculty.

Legal Method, UVA Law Catalogue, 1960-1961

 

In 1993, with computerized research on the rise in legal research, librarian Kent Olson introduced a new course at the law school, Advanced Legal Research (ALR). Building off the foundation of research skills that law students gained in their first year LWR seminars, ALR offered students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of research techniques and research tools.

Advanced Legal Research, UVA Law Catalogue, 1993-1994

 

Library faculty, led by Professor Olson, continue to teach ALR at UVA Law and offer the course in both the fall and spring semesters.  Much has changed in legal research alongside the shift from print to digital.  Still, even since the early days of Legal Bibliography, an emphasis on hands-on, practical learning has remained in these courses as the tried and true means to prepare students for the legal questions of the working world.

Kristin Glover teaching ALR at UVA Law

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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Gregory Swanson and the Integration of UVA Law

[On February 5, 2018, the University of Virginia School of Law commemorated Gregory Hayes Swanson, who attended UVA Law in the graduate L.L.M. program and was the first black student to enroll at UVA after winning his lawsuit to desegregate the University in 1950. Read more about the Swanson commemoration here.]

Gregory Swanson Enrolls at UVA, September 5, 1950. Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.

In a 1958 interview, Gregory Swanson appealed to the readers of the Washington Post: “What Negroes want most is to feel that they belong in the mainstream of American life.”[1]  Swanson knew firsthand the challenges that African Americans faced.  Nine years prior, in the fall of 1949, Swanson initiated an application to the School of Law at the University of Virginia.  Already a practicing lawyer, Swanson wanted to earn a graduate degree in law—an L.L.M.  “My primary reason stems from the desire to teach law,” Swanson wrote to the law school’s Committee on Admissions.[2]  By the time of his application, Swanson had graduated from Howard University with an L.L.B. (now J.D.), returned to his home state of Virginia, and passed the bar. After several years of clerking and practicing law at firms in Richmond, Danville, and Martinsville, he decided teaching would be his next career move.

Swanson sent off his application materials in November 1949 expecting to hear the standard reply for an application from a black student.  Rather than attend the University of Virginia, which interpreted state segregation laws in such a way as to prevent his enrollment, he anticipated that he would be offered “grant-in-aid from the state” to attend an out-of-state institution. Writing to his former dean at Howard about his UVA application, Swanson explained that under usual circumstances this would have been acceptable.  But with the Sweatt and McLaurin cases to desegregate American universities currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, the timing seemed right to challenge the constitutionality of Virginia segregation practices in graduate education.[3] Swanson aimed to gain admission to UVA Law, and when he did, he told the Howard dean, it would be “a triumph in the struggle to break down segregation and discrimination or to bring about equalization in education facilities.”[4]

After reviewing Swanson’s application, the Law School’s Committee on Graduate Studies unanimously approved his admission as an L.L.M. student. Yet, their resounding endorsement was not enough. On January 19, 1950, the committee brought the matter of Swanson’s application before a full meeting of the law faculty. With one dissenting vote among the twelve faculty members in attendance, the law faculty also approved the Committee’s decision and sent the matter to UVA President Colgate Darden for a final determination.[6]  But it was the Board of Visitors who would have the ultimate say.  On July 14, 1950, the UVA Board of Visitors denied Swanson’s application to UVA Law.[7] 

Within days of hearing of Swanson’s denial, the firm of Hill, Martin, & Robinson and the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP organized legal staff, including Thurgood Marshall, and resources to obtain Swanson’s admission to UVA Law.[8]  Swanson filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Charlottesville to gain admission to UVA Law for the upcoming fall 1950 semester.[9]  Swanson and his team succeeded, and on September 5, 1950, the District Court ruled in favor of his admittance.  Not only was he a qualified applicant, the court explained, but UVA was the only state institution at which Swanson could pursue a graduate degree in law. The court order permitted Swanson to enroll immediately and barred UVA from denying admission to the UVA Law School to “any other Negro similarly situated.”[10]  Ten days later, Swanson registered as a student—as the first African-American student to attend the University of Virginia.

The Carver Inn, in the former Vinegar Hill neighborhood of Charlottesville, where Gregory Swanson lived during his one-year residency at UVA Law. Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.

The lawsuit would not be the last challenge Swanson navigated in Charlottesville or at UVA. “It is difficult to stop realizing that I am on the spot as well as a stranger in this town,” he wrote to a family member just a week after commencing his studies.  Whereas other law students lived close to grounds, Swanson lived more than a mile away—in the black neighborhood of Vinegar Hill.  During his walks to school, “whites also stop to stare at me, for they realize that I am going to the Univ.  I should like to read their minds.  Sometimes, I feel that I do.”[11]  At the law school, Swanson’s experience in many ways mirrored that of other students.  He studied tax law. He was nervous about being called on in class but proud of his first delivery. He ate lunch every day in the UVA Commons Cafeteria. Critically, however, Swanson endured repeated affronts to his presence, including fellow students who vocally opposed integration. 

Nevertheless, Swanson used his time at UVA to build and enable a more inclusive environment.  “I am endeavoring to participate [in] the University activities as much as possible so that the students can get used to the idea of a Negro being here,” he wrote to a family member in September 1950.[12]  Swanson attended lectures and football games, and he was a season ticket holder to the University’s Tuesday Evening Concert Group at Cabell Hall.[13] He also joined the UVA YMCA’s new “Committee for Racial Understanding.”[14]

Gregory Swanson on the UVA lawn. Gregory H. Swanson Papers at Howard University.

His graduate program required only one year in residence, so Swanson returned to Martinsville in 1951 and reopened his former practice.  There, he continued drafting his thesis, a requirement of the L.L.M. degree program, while simultaneously building his firm.  Balancing his career with his studies proved difficult, as it often did for L.L.M. students, and Swanson missed the two-year deadline to submit his completed thesis.  He would not receive his L.L.M. degree, nor did anyone else in his graduate cohort.[15] This, however, did little to impede Swanson.  Instead of teaching, Swanson dedicated his early career to fighting for civil rights for black Americans in both the courtroom and greater community.  Throughout the 1950s, he was an active member of the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP and the Virginia Voters League, as well as his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, which was dedicated to supporting black students and black civil rights. 

By the time he was interviewed by the Washington Post in 1958, Swanson’s legacy was obvious.  One year prior to the article, there were eleven Africans Americans enrolled at the University of Virginia.[16]  Moreover, Swanson’s commitment to racial understanding endured.  He encouraged communities to form groups similar to the YMCA committee that he had served on at UVA.  And he implored Americans to advocate for their fellow citizens.  For Swanson, inaction was unacceptable, a belief he embodied throughout his time at UVA. “Life is cheapened where man’s inhumanity to man prevails,” Swanson wrote just before he enrolled at the University of Virginia, “and those who remain silent in the wake of such action… become an integral part of the conspiracy of silence.”[17] 

 

FURTHER READING AND RESEARCH:

The Papers of Gregory H. Swanson
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University

Papers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Library of Congress
Plaintiff case materials and correspondence

The Papers of Judge John Paul
Special Collections, UVA Law Library
Correspondence and court filings for Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va.

The Papers of Oliver Hill
Virginia State University
[This Collection is currently being processed and will be available to researchers in Fall 2018]

The Papers of Sarah Patton Boyle
Special Collections, UVA Library
Correspondence with Gregory Swanson

Margaret Edds, We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow (Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2018).

 

[1] Susanna McBee, “First Negro to Attend U. of Virginia Sees Need for ‘Massive Assistance.’ The Washington Post and Times Herald, 01 September 1958, A8.

[2] Gregory Swanson to Committee on Admissions, December 1, 1949, Gregory H. Swanson Papers, Howard University [cited hereafter as GSP].

[3] The two cases were Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950) regarding the admission of a black student to the University of Texas Law School; McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950), regarding segregated educational facilities at the University of Oklahoma. Swanson to George Marion, November 30, 1949, GSP.

[4] Swanson to F.D. Wilkinson, January 30, 1950, GSP.

[6] UVA Law School Faculty Meeting minutes, January 19, 1950.

[7] Emerson Spies to Swanson, July 29, 1950, GSP.

[8] Memorandum, Spottswood Robinson to Thurgood Marshall, August 3, 1950, Box 247, Papers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Library of Congress.

[9] Complaint, Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., No. 30 (W.D. Va. Sept. 5, 1950), Box 42, MSS 81-7, Judicial Papers of Judge John Paul, Special Collections UVA Law Library.

[10] Judgment at 3, Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., No. 30 (W.D. Va. Sept. 5, 1950), Box 42, MSS 81-7, Judicial Papers of Judge John Paul, Special Collections UVA Law Library.

[11] Swanson to Marquerite, September 28, 1950, GSP.

[12] Swanson to Marquerite, September 28, 1950, GSP.

[13] The Tuesday Evening Concert Group, Season Ticket 1950-1951; YMCA service programs, various dates, GSP.

[14] YMCA meeting minutes, October 16, 1950, GSP.

[15] Swanson to Leslie Buckler, May 16, 1951, GSP. The annual catalog for the law school in place at the time of Swanson’s admission and enrollment at UVA Law specified that L.L.M. students would progress from their period of residence to a candidate for the degree after submitting a project plan and a description of their thesis to the graduate committee and earning the committee’s approval to become a degree candidate.  The catalog specified that L.L.M. students must submit a completed thesis within two years from the date at which they became a candidate for the degree. The University of Virginia Record: Department of Law 1949-1950 (Charlottesville: The University of Virginia, 1949), 16.

[16] McBee, “First Negro to Attend U. of Virginia Sees Need for ‘Massive Assistance,’ The Washington Post and Times Herald, 01 September 1958, A8.

[17] Swanson to Sarah Boyle, August 28, 1950, GSP.

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

Mary Draper

Mary Draper earned her Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of colonial America and the Atlantic world. She is currently working on a book about the history of the early modern British Caribbean.

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Citizen Historians Wanted: Help The UVA Law Library Transcribe Historical Legal Manuscripts

In the early 1820s, a young Harvard College graduate named Jared Sparks devised a plan to preserve the early history of the United States.  Like many Americans, Sparks sensed the closing of an age. Nearly fifty years had passed since the Declaration of Independence and many of the American Revolution’s central figures were dead or soon would be. George Washington took his last breath in December 1799 at Mount Vernon, six months after Patrick Henry succumbed to stomach cancer. In the 1820s, Thomas Jefferson remained busy overseeing the creation of the University of Virginia from his home at Monticello. From there he also maintained a lively correspondence with his friend and former adversary, John Adams, who spent his remaining years at home in Quincy, Massachusetts. Yet they would soon be dead, too. 

One August day in 1823, Sparks determined to preserve the nation’s past as he meditated “on the importance of having a new History of America.” He recognized this difficult task would require him to “go to the fountain and read everything on the subject.” That meant finding original documents. Like his contemporary and fellow historian Peter Force, Sparks set out to find and transcribe copies of correspondence, reports, and a host of other material in private homes, court houses, and libraries across the nation and in Europe. He became a prolific documentary editor. Over the next thirty years he published numerous volumes, including The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (12 vols.), Life of Gouverneur Morris (3 vols.), and The Works of Benjamin Franklin (10 vols.). His twelve volume edition of George Washington’s writings was his most significant achievement and served as a forerunner of the current Papers of George Washington Project at UVA.1 

Sparks was a citizen historian long before the development of the modern historical profession in the late nineteenth century. His efforts to collect, transcribe, and arrange manuscripts into publishable form broadened what his fellow Americans could know about their own history.  In the nineteenth century that required traveling by horse or ship to archives in a quest for manuscripts. Today, professional historians and documentary editors use slightly faster modes of transportation to reach libraries and archives, but digital technology has also allowed us to bring the archive to the scholar and public. For example, you can now read George III’s thoughts on kingship in his own hand from the comfort of your office or explore a vast array of American women’s experiences in their own voices with students in your classroom.

Technology has also made the creation of historical knowledge participatory on a grand scale. Crowdsourcing transcriptions of manuscript collections has become an important way for professional librarians and scholars at institutions and projects large and small to work with people interested in the past. Manuscripts and rare books can languish in archival boxes unseen for years, keeping the stories they tell unintentionally hidden. Digitizing the documents and asking for the public’s help to transcribe them is a means to unlock their potential for future research and a form of civic engagement with our history. 

The UVA Law Library Special Collection is delighted to announce that we have partnered with FromthePage.com to make some of our manuscripts available for public transcription. Inspired by our friends in The Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio at the University of Iowa Library and initiatives such as the Colored Conventions Project, we seek the help of citizen historians to tell the stories of the women and men who appear in our collections.

The law touches everyone in some way. That was as true in the past as it is today. The legal documents that we present on FromthePage.com capture how people in the United States, England, Scotland, and Italy lived and died. Their presence in a petition to a court, in a letter seeking favors from a government official, a catalog of their private property in a probate record, or in a lecture before eager young law students reveal much about them and the legal culture in which they lived. 

What we hope to accomplish: As Jared Sparks knew the publication of transcribed manuscripts democratized historical knowledge and made it possible for amateur and professional historians alike to write better histories. We have the same goal in mind. Producing transcriptions of the Law Library’s legal manuscripts can make the material more accessible and encourage new research. It will also enable the Special Collections librarians to create better finding aides that will make research and discovery more efficient. Using a combination of technology and interpretation, the librarians will identify subjects, key themes, and relationships that can increase a collection’s usability.  Importantly, we would like teachers to use this tool and our material in the classroom to help their students understand the complexity of the past.

How can you help: Participating is easy.  Follow these simple steps:

1. Go to FromthePage.com and create a free username and password.

2. One you are logged in, take a moment to read the “Transcription Instructions” in the Frequently asked Questions. Then go to “Collections” and look for those collections owned by “UVA School of Law Library.” Click on a collection that interests you.  (More on our available collections below).

3. In your chosen collection, review the “About” section to get a sense of the documents inside. Then investigate the “Works.” Think of “Works” like a folder of documents in a box. Select the one you want.

4. One you are inside a Work, select a document page or several to read through first before transcribing. It is important to gain a sense of an author’s handwriting and language. This will help you better understand an author’s thoughts and objectives, stylistic choices, and common trends across items. It helps, too, to read through another transcriber’s work (if available) to prepare your brain for the content you will see on the manuscript page. Previous transcriptions are important reference tools for each untranscribed page. 

Now you are ready to transcribe. Find a page to work on and click on “help transcribe this page.”

5. You will then be in transcription mode. You can adjust the position of the document to your likening. Be sure to look at the “Transcription Conventions” below the white transcription field to find information on how we would like you to transcribe the document.

6. Start to transcribe and be sure to save your work frequently. 

7. Know something about the people in one of the documents? Please feel free to put a note in the “Note” field at the bottom of the screen. The more we understand about these documents the better stories we can tell about the people in them.

We do not expect perfect transcriptions. Sometimes unclear or confusing words befuddle even the best professional documentary editor. And it is always possible that another transcriber will come after you and identify a word that you could not. You can also mark a page for formal review and leave a note for the Special Collections team should you want us to take a closer look. Documentary editing is a communal process.

What is important is the knowledge that we can begin to gleam from the transcriptions and the stories we can tell about the past. Citizens historians are crucial to making that possible. 

Manuscripts now available for transcription:

We have ranked these seven projects by degree of difficulty, which increases as one moves down the list.

1. The Papers of Roger B. Taney, 1792-1820  

Roger B. Taney practiced law in his home state of Maryland long before he became an influential member of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and later authored the majority opinion in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case (1857) as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. 

Taney (1777-1864) handled many of the cases in this collection just as he began his political ascent in state politics. The papers featured here are legal documents from his practice in Frederick, Maryland. Most items fall between 1805 and 1818. A few cases deal with slaves. These papers offer a unique opportunity to examine Taney’s legal career in its formative years before he rose to national prominence. 

2. Practicing Law in the Early American Republic

The papers offered here feature documents written by major figures from the American Revolution era. These include Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; President James Monroe; future president John Quincy Adams; George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson’s mentor at the College of William and Mary; John Marshall, future chief justice of the Supreme Court; Charles Lee, the brother of Light Horse Harry Lee and uncle to Robert E. Lee; and Edmund Randolph, the first Attorney General of the United States. 

3. The Papers of John B. Minor, 1845-1893

John B. Minor joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1845 at the age of thirty-two. An 1843 graduate of the university, Minor began his teaching career following a decade in private practice. Minor, along with James P. Holcombe, directed the law program at UVA amidst national debates over slavery and the American Civil War. Following the war, Minor and his colleagues presided over a post-war enrollment boom that saw over 100 students in the law program. Meanwhile, Minor took an active role in reforming Virginia’s public education system and published major legal works that established his reputation as one of the South’s legal leading minds. 

The papers in this collection are wide and varied. They include Minor’s lecture notes, legal work, documentation on slaves, correspondence about secession in the Civil War, and post-war politics. They shed important light on Virginia in the Civil War era and illuminate the development of legal education during a period of national upheaval and reconstruction. 

4. The Papers of Solicitors J.M Shugar and A. W. Vaisey, 1850-1914

The documents in this collection contain the stories of nineteenth century English men and women. Solicitors J. M. Shugar and A. W. Vaisey worked as probate and property lawyers in the town of Tring, Hertfordshire, in south central England. They handled wills, estates, and personal property issues for their clients from about 1850 through 1914. Shugar practiced law in Tring from roughly 1850 until his death in 1876. Vaisey, a newly minted lawyer, took over Shugar’s practice and made it his own. Fortunately, their combined papers have survived the years and make it possible for us to know about the lives of their clients in some detail.

Estate papers are crucial for historians’ ability to reconstruct the social world in which people lived. Transcribing wills, estate inventories, and associated documents will help historians reconstruct this nineteenth century world and offer relatives new insights into their ancestors.

5. Letter book for the Receiver of Wrecks at Kingston upon Hull, England, 1855-1861

This handwritten letter book was kept for James Sparrow, who worked for the British Board of Trade as the Receiver of Wrecks at Kingston upon Hull, 1855-1861. The volume begins with an index of correspondents and subjects. While the book primarily records copies of all outgoing mail, there are frequent notes about disposition of matters or copies of replies in the margins.

The letter book offers fascinating insight into British commercial and maritime activities from Kingston upon Hull, a port community in eastern England along the North Sea. Transcribing this manuscript could help inform our understanding of British maritime activities in the mid-nineteenth century. The letters record not just merchant activity and doomed vessels, but government patronage and power. 

6. Scottish Court of Session Records Marginalia Project

This transcription opportunity is one of the most challenging and builds upon a larger initiative at the UVA Law Library to construct a digital archive and research platform centered on our Court of Session Collection. The Court of Session is Scotland’s supreme civil court and court of first instance. Eighteenth century Scottish court records are distinctive for the printed word. Unlike in England or in the American colonies and states, briefs, memorials, petitions, and depositions were printed and given to the court’s judges for their evaluation. Copies of these documents exist in other archives, but the Law Library’s are unique for the marginalia scribbled on them by their two owners, William Craig, Lord Craig, a judge on the court, and Andrew Skene, who briefly served as Scotland’s solicitor general. 

The marginalia illuminates how Craig and Skene interpreted and studied Scots Law as they participated in the making of it. Craig, who owned the papers first and had the worse handwriting of the two, scribbled over cases in which he was involved with as a lawyer before he sat on the court. Skene, who either bought or inherited Craig’s papers, added on to the collection, and made his own notations next to Craig’s. Scottish judges did not issue formal written opinions as the U.S. Supreme Court does. A clerk took note of what the judges said in conversation on the bench. Later, these decisions appeared in legal digests. Skene and Craig often wrote on their papers what the judges said in the court room, probably as they heard them say it. The marginalia pulls back the current on law making and takes us into the room as it happened. 

7. Giusticiati: Italian Manuscript List of Persons Condemned to Death in Venice, 726-1804

The law library knows very little about this manuscript. This project will require people with Italian language skills. Written in Italian and probably composed around 1804, this bound volume contains the names of 1,068 Venetians executed between 726 to 1804. It records names, dates of execution, crimes, and method of execution. Relatively few executions are listed until the late sixteenth century, and almost half of the total listed in this manuscript occurred in the seventeenth century. Crimes included conspiracy, rebellion, treason, theft, forgery, usury, homicide, sodomy, aggression and disturbing the peace. Death was usually by hanging or beheading, but occasionally included torture and display of the bodies.

Please contact Jim Ambuske (jpa4ad@virginia.edu) with any questions. 

1. Journal entry, 18 August 1823, quoted in Lester J. Cappon, Jared Sparks: The Preparation of an Editor, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 90 (1978): 3. See this article for a concise overview of Sparks’s career in documentary editing. The UVA Law Library Special Collections owns a complete twelve-volume set of Sparks’s 1847 edition of The Writings of George Washington. Peter Force’s American Archives remains an important resource for students of the colonial period and American Revolution. The introduction to the digital edition of his Revolutionary era collection at Northern Illinois University Libraries contains a useful brief overview of his career. The site itself is a wonderful research tool. The UVA Law Library Special Collections holds a first edition set of the nine-volume printed work, which covers 1774 to 1776. Force published these volumes between 1837 and 1853.

Written by

Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections to develop interpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

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Professor Scalia Administered Justice on the Football Field, Too


Recently uncovered photographs
from the U.Va. Law School archives reveal a little-known phase in the legal career of recently deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: football official. When the U.Va. law students of the Virginia Law Weekly and the Virginia Law Review kicked off their annual gridiron football contest in October 1970, then-U.Va. Law professor Scalia officiated from the sidelines with an eye on the field and his mind on the rulebook. This was the twelfth meeting of the two publications in this football classic that began in 1953 and always took place at the U.Va. Mad Bowl. (At the time the Law School was housed in Clark Hall on Central Grounds.) Two law school professors officiated over each contest, and the losing team owed the winner one keg of beer.

Go Weakley!

Weeks of witty trash talking had preceded this annual “gridiron juggernaught” in 1970, as it did in most years. A Law Weekly article wondered if anything could stop the “avalanche of rushers in the Weekly defense” while the Law Reviewers were still trying to “get their ersatz football players cum bookworms to do their calisthenics in cadence.” (Virginia Law Weekly, October 9, 1970).

The contest that Scalia observed on this October day was not pretty and ended in a 38-0 romp by the Law Weekly. Showing no mercy to their downtrodden competitors in the game’s write-up the next week, the Law Weekly staff reveled in their triumph:

“Spearheading a deadly passing attack, Jim ‘Needle’ Addison moved the Weekly’s mighty gridiron machine to the highest score in the history of the annual publications classic.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)

Antonin Scalia enjoying a moment on the sidelines.
Antonin Scalia enjoying a moment on the sidelines.

Throughout the game, Weekly quarterback Addison connected for numerous lengthy touchdown passes and a “fantastic 40-yard run right down the right sidelines which left the Reviewers hopelessly gasping [sic] their blue books.” (VLW, October 16, 1970) 

Professor Scalia would prove critical to the Law Review’s single moment of football glory. In the first half, an interception put a momentary stop to the Law Weekly’s romp through the Reviewer’s defense. But momentary this glory would remain. With Professor Scalia acute to the action from the sideline, the Reviewers watched as their triumph was “nullified by the officials under the keen eye of ‘Codebook’ Scalia for fielding too many players.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)

 – Randi Flaherty and Loren Moulds 

 

Full-sized images are available at http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/gridiron-contest-1970 and http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/scalia-referees-gridiron-contest

 

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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