Legal Historian J. Gordon Hylton '77 to Join Law Faculty

J. Gordon Hylton

J. Gordon Hylton's research interests include the legal profession, the history of civil rights and the legal history of American sports.

July 8, 2015

For J. Gordon Hylton, joining the University of Virginia School of Law faculty this fall will be both a homecoming and history repeating itself. A legal historian and 1977 graduate of the Law School, he has been a visiting professor at UVA for more than a decade. He now formally joins UVA from Marquette Law School, where he had been on the faculty since 1995.

Hylton said returning to UVA Law to teach full time alongside professors who originally inspired him, such as Ted White and the recently retired but still involved Chuck McCurdy, is an honor.

"To me the most extraordinary thing is to back here with so many of my former professors," Hylton said. "You know, if I was 38 that wouldn't be so remarkable."

In addition to his J.D., Hylton holds an M.A. from the University, and he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of American Civilization. After law school, he clerked for Justice Albertis S. Harrison and Chief Justice Lawrence I'Anson of the Virginia Supreme Court and later worked for a year at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, but the bulk of his career has been spent in academia.

"I had pretty much decided by the time I finished law school that I wanted to be an academic," he said.

His research interests focus on the history of the legal profession, the history of civil rights and the legal history of American sports.

Risa Goluboff , the John Allan Love Professor of Law and the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at UVA, said Hylton is a trusted colleague who will continue to make a significant contribution to academic discourse at the Law School.

"I am delighted that Gordon Hylton is permanently joining the UVA Law faculty," Goluboff said. "Gordon has deep roots here. He was one of the first graduates of the J.D.-M.A. in legal history under the guidance of Chuck McCurdy. In the years since I have been teaching here, Gordon has been an important presence in all things legal history — workshops, writing groups, informal discussions. He has vast stores of knowledge across American legal history, and he is a generous and supportive reader of colleagues' writing."

Hylton is also respected as a teacher, having won numerous awards for his classroom instruction. He is a past recipient of the Gihardi Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Teaching Award presented by the Marquette Chapter of Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity. Earlier in his career, he was named professor of the year at the Chicago-Kent Law School on three occasions and was twice the recipient of the Illinois Institute of Technology's award for superior teaching. He is the only visiting professor to be named professor of the year at Washington University Law School.

During the upcoming school year, Hylton will teach staple law classes such as Property (he is co-author of the textbook "Property Law and the Public Interest: Cases and Materials," now in its fourth edition), as well as his own unique course: African-American Lawyers from the Civil War to Present. His research on the history of African-American lawyers , particularly in Virginia, has been an ongoing scholarly interest that has resulted in a book manuscript Hylton says he hopes to send to publishers later this year.

Goluboff, who is the author of the award-winning book "The Lost Promise of Civil Rights," said Hylton's scholarship on African-American lawyers is exemplary.

"Gordon has done the hard work of excavating the professional lives of African-American lawyers others have largely forgotten," she said. "He has also inspired students to do the same. Gordon's scholarship is a true and important contribution to our understanding of the legal profession and American history more generally."

Hylton, said he will follow up his book on Virginia's early black attorneys with a broader look at African-Americans in the legal profession. He is also working with the UVA Law Library on one book in a three-part history of the Law School.

But for law students, Hylton may have already made his biggest contribution to school history. As a student in the 1970s, he co-founded (with Fred Vogel '77) the North Grounds Softball League , which has since become famous for hosting its annual charity tournament among law schools.

"I don't think any of us thought the league would still be here even the next year, let alone 40 years later," he said.

An expert on sports law, Hylton is a past chair of the Association of American Law School's Sections on Legal History and Sports, and he co-edited the book "Sports Law and Regulation."


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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