Dedman School of Law records
A Guide to the Collection
Southern Methodist University, chartered in 1911 and opened in 1915, founded the SMU School of Law on February 10, 1925. The most vocal proponent of establishing the school was Dallas Judge Joseph E. Cockrell. Cockrell served as a member of the SMU Board of Trustees, worked as the President of the Dallas Bar Association, and advocated the establishment of a law school at the new university since 1919.
SMU had limited funds to devote to the creation of another school (an engineering school was also established in 1925), and the university agreed to establish the school as long as it could be done with outside funding. Enough money was raised to enable the school to open in September 1925. The school’s two full-time instructors were Professor W.A. Rhea and Robert B. Holland. H.H. Guice of SMU’s Department of Government, Hobert Price, and Lawrence H. Rhea (both of the Dallas Bar Association) worked as part-time instructors.
Twenty-four students made up the initial student body, and Judge Cockrell served as the school’s first dean. Initially, students could only take the first year’s law courses; the second and third year courses were not yet offered. The full three-year law curriculum was available by the end of the decade. Cockrell’s tenure as dean lasted only two years, and he was replaced by former Washington University law professor Charles Potts in 1927. The first law class graduated the following year: eleven men and one woman.
Student population grew over the next fifteen years, albeit slowly. Despite the Depression, nearly 100 students were enrolled in 1934; this number fell to eighty-six students by 1940. Full-time faculty numbered only four through the 1930s. Nevertheless, the school was recognized as a reputable academic institution. Only two years after its opening, the school made the list of law schools approved by the American Bar Association. In addition, the curriculum was considered strong enough that its graduates were deemed able to practice law by the Texas Supreme Court and the State Board of Legal Examiners without the necessary examination. The SMU Law School was accepted into the Association of American Law Schools in 1929.
In 1938, the school merged with a law school operated by the YMCA—the Dallas School of Law. The ten-year old institution offered evening courses, and the two schools combined to address the problems of student numbers (in the case of SMU) and the issue of academic credibility (YMCA). For the first couple of years following the merger, SMU still operated the evening classes downtown; these were moved to the SMU campus in 1940.
The SMU Law School was originally housed in Dallas Hall. Like the Perkins School of Theology, it received its own quadrangle of buildings after World War II. The oldest building which makes up the school is Florence Hall. Originally named Kirby Hall, the building was finished in 1925 and was the previous home of the School of Theology. Two new law buildings were completed in 1951: Robert G. Storey Hall and the Lawyers Inn. The Underwood Law Library, built in 1971, makes up the fourth side of the law quadrangle.
The SMU Law School established a partnership with the Southwestern Legal Foundation in 1947. University President Umphrey Lee and Dean Robert Storey (also head of the SLF) brought the Foundation to campus although it remained operationally independent. The Foundation held a program of year-round classes for the continuing legal education of attorneys. Due to disputes with SMU over physical space needs, competition for sources of funding, and other problems, the Foundation left the university in 1974.
The School of Law is notable for having had two of SMU’s presidents serve on its faculty. Dr. Paul Hardin III, sixth president of SMU from 1972-1974, maintained faculty rank as a professor of law and taught courses on tort reform during his brief presidential tenure. Dr. A. Kenneth Pye, ninth president of SMU from 1987-1994, found time to teach a seminar entitled, "The Legal Implications of the Control of Terrorism" during his years at SMU.
In 2001, the 75th anniversary of its founding, the school was renamed the Dedman School of Law after Robert and Nancy Dedman. Mr. Dedman, law graduate of SMU and head of ClubCorp, and his wife made a donation totaling $20 million to the law school—only a fraction of the total amount of money they have given to SMU beginning in the 1970s.
In 2009, the Dedman School of Law offers the J.D. degree in a three-year program (or four-year evening program), the LL.M. degree (general and Taxation), the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science), and two joint degree programs: a J.D./M.B.A., and a J.D./M.A. in Economics. The school publishes five law journals: the SMU Law Review, the Journal of Air Law and Commerce, The International Lawyer, the Law and Business Review of the Americas, and the SMU Science and Technology Law Review. Dedman also has numerous student law organizations, including the Student Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the Christian Legal Society, Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity, and the International Law Society.
Dedman currently has over 950 students enrolled in its full-time day and part-time evening law programs. The school boasts law graduates from all around the country and many other nations as well. SMU Law alumni have gone on to sit on the Texas Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Missouri, the Supreme Court of Japan, and courts of appeal both here and abroad.
"Another 75 Years: The Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas." February 14, 2001 (program for dedication of Dedman School of Law).
"History and Development of the School of Law." SMU School of Law Development Fund Campaign Bulletin (Vol. I, No. 2), September 23, 1957, pg. 2.
Kliewer, Terry. "Law Foundation May Go to UTD." Dallas Morning News, January 24, 1974, pg. 1.
Miller, Robert. "SMU Renaming Law School After Dedmans: Honor Cites Support from ClubCorp Founder, Family." Dallas Morning News, February 14, 2001, pg. 18A.
Sampson, Gregory W. "The Dallas Bar Association From 1909 to 1928." Dallas Bar Association: http://www.dallasbar.org/members/headnotes_showarticle.asp?article_id=1565&issue_id=140. Accessed November 24, 2009.
"SMU Dedman School of Law." Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law: http://www.law.smu.edu/. Accessed November 24, 2009.
"SMU School of Law, Dallas, Texas." 1990 (admissions pamphlet).
Thomas, Mary Martha Hosford. Southern Methodist University: Founding and Early Years. Dallas: SMU Press, 1974.
"The Underwood Law Library, Southern Methodist University." 1971 (pamphlet for dedication of Underwood Law Library).
White, James F. 50 Years and Buildings: Architecture at SMU. Dallas: SMU Press, 1966.
The SMU Dedman School of Law records are arranged into four series. The first series contains general school and student information. Student directories, the buildings that make up the School of Law, some material on the history of the school, and information on student law organizations make up this series. Some admissions pamphlets are included, but most are in Series 3, because they give basic information on the school: enrollment information, degrees offered, faculty, etc.
Series 2 holds news on the SMU Law faculty and reports from the Dean of the Law School. These reports date from the 1960s through the 1980s and are useful in getting a broad sense of the state of the school during this period.
Series 3 includes printed material related to academics. Course catalogs, pamphlets, and news releases on special lectures and conferences make up most of the material in this series. This series also has admissions pamphlets and information given to first-year law students.
Series 4 contains financial information on the School of Law. Records from the early years of the SMU Law School are included, as are financial reports; information on gifts, grants, and endowment; budget information; and solicitations to alumni and school supporters for donations.
Most of this collection consists of printed records, and the material in each series is arranged topically in alphabetical order and then if necessary in chronological order. The time period for this collection spans nearly the entire range of the existence of the SMU School of Law, some of it even prior to the establishment of the school in 1925. The majority of the material, however, dates from about 1960 through the mid 1990s. Some material from 2001—the year in which the school was renamed the Dedman School of Law—is included.
Users should note that the Underwood Law Library maintains a historical archive of unprocessed material related to the SMU Dedman School of Law. Users may contact a reference librarian at the Law Library for further information on these materials.
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Dedman School of Law records, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2009.
Lara Corazalla, 2009.
Detailed Description of the Collection