A Timeline of Key Events in UVA Law History

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation.

History of UVA Law 

1819 General Assembly establishes the University of Virginia, including the "department" of law. Thomas Jefferson is the University's first rector.

Pavilion III
Pavilion III

1826 John Tayloe Lomax teaches first law classes in Pavilion III.

1829 Students Mosby and Wolfe first to complete law courses, pass exams.

1830 Lomax resigns; John A.G. Davis is hired. He lives and teaches in Pavilion X.

1840 Davis is fatally wounded by gunshot while trying to subdue rioting students on the Lawn—results in Honor Code adoption in 1842. Judge Henry St. George Tucker replaces Davis.

1841 First Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree awarded. 

1845 Ill health forces Tucker to retire; John B. Minor (Class of 1834) hired.

1851 Enrollment reaches all-time high; James P. Holcombe is hired as assistant professor; Minor and Holcombe revise curriculum, encourage students to take two years of law courses.

Rotunda timeline

1853 Classes move to newly built Rotunda Annex.

1861 Holcombe resigns; Minor teaches handful of students during Civil War.

1865 Minor's vigilance ensures University not harmed as federal troops march through Charlottesville.

1866-67 Stephen O. Southall (Class of 1841) hired; enrollment returns to pre-war figures.

1884 Southall dies suddenly; James H. Gilmore hired.

1893 William Minor Lile (Class of 1882) joins law faculty; Raleigh C. Minor (Class of 1890) assists his father, becomes assistant professor following year.

1894-95 University requires six courses over two years of study for law degree.

1895 John Minor dies at 82; fire breaks out in Rotunda Annex, spreads to Rotunda; Raleigh Minor saves law book collection.

ca. 1900 Rotunda restoration complete; classes return to cramped basement quarters.

1903 First Libel Show performed by members of the Phi Delta Phi fraternity.

1904 Edwin A. Alderman appointed as first president of University; William Minor Lile appointed as first dean of law department; high school diploma a prerequisite for law study.

1907 Armistead M. Dobie (Class of 1904) joins faculty.

1909 University requires three years of study for law degree.

1911 Law department moves to Minor Hall.

1913 Virginia Law Review begins publication.

Minor Hall
Minor Hall

1918 All University classes interrupted during fall semester as federal government offers military science courses to prepare populace for World War I.

1920 University requires students to complete one year of college before entering Law School.

1921 University professional schools allow admission of women; Professor Raleigh Minor and Dean Lile organize the Law School Alumni Association.

1922 University requires entering students to complete two years of college prior to entering Law School.

1923 Elizabeth N. Tompkins is the first woman to graduate from the Law School.

Clark Hall
Clark Hall

1932 Law School moves to Clark Hall, donated by William Andrews Clark, Jr. (Class of 1899); after the move, Armistead Dobie becomes second dean.

1937 Ill health forces Dobie to turn over deanship responsibilities; Professor F.D.G. Ribble (Class of 1921) becomes acting dean.

1939 F.D.G. Ribble appointed third dean; students admitted to Law School are now required to complete three years of college.

1942-43 Many students and some faculty leave for service in World War II; emergency accelerated program enables students to complete degree requirements in two years; Frances Farmer, the Law School's first professional librarian, is hired.

1946-47 First-year law courses are offered year-round to accommodate more than 700 returning servicemen and women; Student Legal Forum is founded; first Master of Laws degrees awarded.

1948 Virginia Law Weekly begins publication.

1949-50 New west wing adds additional office and library space to Clark Hall; all applicants are required to take Law School Admission Test; the first Doctorate in Judicial Science is awarded.

1950 Gregory Swanson, who enrolls for graduate work in law, becomes first African-American admitted to the University.

1952 East wing of Clark Hall complete; Law School Foundation created.

1956 The Barrister yearbook begins publication.

1958 John F. Merchant is first African-American to graduate from the Law School; first Law Day celebrating alumni reunions is held.

1961 Third-floor addition to Clark Hall provides faculty lounge, more classrooms, and faculty offices; University requires undergraduate degree for admission.

1963 F.D.G. Ribble retires, Hardy C. Dillard becomes fourth dean; Virginia Journal of International Law begins publication.

1968 Monrad G. Paulsen appointed fifth dean.

1970 Elaine Jones is the first African-American woman to graduate from the Law School. All schools in University opened to women.

North Grounds
North Grounds

1974 Law School moves to new building (later renamed Henry Malcolm Withers Hall) on North Grounds.

1976 Emerson Spies becomes sixth dean.

1978 Student body exceeds 1,100, and Phase II (later renamed Walter L. Brown Hall) of Law School is completed.

1980 Richard A. Merrill becomes seventh dean; Law School offers degree program for Master of Laws in the Judicial Process.

1988 Thomas H. Jackson becomes eighth dean.

1991 Jackson becomes University provost; Robert E. Scott becomes ninth dean; fundraising begins for renovation of Law School.

1995 Construction of Law Grounds begins.

Scott Commons
Scott Commons

1997 David A. Harrison III Law Grounds completed and dedicated.

2000 Law School ends successful capital campaign, raising $203 million (at the time the most successful capital campaign in the history of American legal education); school readies to celebrate 175th anniversary.

2001 John C. Jeffries Jr. becomes 10th dean of the Law School.

2002 Construction is completed on Student-Faculty Center.

2008 Paul G. Mahoney becomes 11th dean of the Law School

2012 Law School completes an eight-year capital campaign that raises $173.9 million to enhance the student experience, surpassing a goal of $150 million (More). As part of the campaign, the Karsh Student Services Center is constructed, providing new space for student services operations, including Admissions, Financial Aid and career counseling offices, in addition to clinics. More

2016 Risa L. Goluboff becomes 12th dean of the Law School, and the first woman to serve as dean.