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Office of the Dean records (Dean's Papers)

Identifier: RG-32-100

Scope and Contents

The 1978 accession of Deans' Papers spans the years 1912-1977, although the concentration of material covers 1937-1975, and touches the terms of Deans Lile, Dobie, Ribble, Dillard, and Paulsen. Included are copies of the Dean's Reports to the president from 1904 to 1968; these reports are an excellent starting point for one researching practically any facet of the Law School's history.

In the deans' correspondence files, the researcher may expect to find several issues which have concerned all the deans of this century. The question of the best ratio of in-state to out-state students have been routinely debated, with the deans and faculty consistently arguing that a substantial proportion of non-Virginians would contribute to the school's maintaining national status and that a decline of out-o-state students would have a significant negative effect.

Through the deans' files one may also trace the campaign for higher faculty salaries and for more funds for the library. The immediate result of this campaign was the rallying of alumni in the form of the Law School Foundation in 1952. Only in the late sixties was the school relatively comfortable financially, no longer relying almost exclusively on state funds.

The library files in the Deans' Papers cover most of Catherine Lipop Graves' term as the first law librarian, all of Frances Farmer's term and the selection of Larry Wenger as Farmer's successor. These records document particularly well the labor of Frances Farmer to raise the collection from average status to eleventh among American law libraries. There is ample evidence of alumni interest and support for this achievement.

In these papers are continuous files on visiting, often foreign, lecturers and the Doherty Lecture established in 1954. There are also good records on the development and growth of some of the student publications and organizations. And, finally, there is alumni correspondence which is primarily concerned with fund-raising. There are, however, many letters from graduates who maintained close ties with the school and often voiced opinions about curriculum, grades, admissions and other matters of policy.


  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1912-1990

Biographical / Historical

It was not until the University was almost ninety years old that its first president was appointed. Previously the chairmanship of the general faculty was filled by a faculty member elected annually. By the turn of the century, however, the administrative duties had become too demanding for a teaching professor to handle efficiently, and so in 1904 Edwin A. Alderman assumed the newly created position of president. He appointed deans for each of the four "minor" faculties: academic, law, medical and engineering; these men, in turn, carried out most of the administrative responsibilities of their departments.

When William Minor Lile, an 1882 graduate of the Law School, became the first dean of the School of Law in September of 1904, the law faculty was comprised of himself, Raleigh Colston Minor and Charles A. Graves. Classes for about 200 students met in a wing of the recently restored Rotunda, and the law library was housed in a section of its basement. The size of the student body held around 200 until after the Law School moved to John B. Minor Hall in 1911, but the faculty had already begun expanding to include Armistead M. Dobie, Charles W. Paul, and George B. Eager, Jr. Both Eager and Dobie filled in for Dean Lile at times when his health was poor. In 1932 when Dobie became dean, the administrative duties had grown to the point that the dean needed an assistant, Eager became the obvious choice. In that same year and only 21 years after moving to Minor Hall, the Law School moved to a new, larger building donated and named after William Andrew Clark, Jr., Class of 1899. During the thirties the number of faculty members remained below ten, and administrative chores were relatively slight.

An alumnus and law professor since 1921, Frederick D. G. Ribble became the third dean in 1939, but his service was soon interrupted by World War II which came close, as had the Civil War and World War I, but did not succeed in bringing the Law School to a halt. After the war, as the size of the student body mushroomed, Ribble patiently and persistently began his campaign for expanding the faculty and raising salaries to a level competitive with comparable law schools. It was not until the mid-1960s, when Ribble had retired and Hardy Cross Dillard had succeeded him, that these goals for the faculty were realized. During this decade the administration of the school of about 700 hundred students and 35 faculty members became too demanding for two men, and another assistant dean was hired. In the late sixties and early seventies Monrad G. Paulsen, the first non-alumnus to become dean of the Law School, implemented an even greater increase in the size and quality of the faculty, as well as raises in their salaries, and saw continued growth of the student body. In 1974 the Law School changed quarters for the third time since the turn of the century, moving this time about a mile north of the Rotunda.


68.5 Linear Feet (171 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Dean's Papers date back to 1912, which was eight years after the first dean was appointed, and go forward to the early XXI century. These records document the growth of the administration from a time when there was one dean, a part-time clerical assistant and a faculty of five, to a time when there are four deans, three secretaries and a faculty of more than fifty; from a time when there were two hundred students, to the 1970's when there are more than a thousand students. Although the earliest extant document is dated 1912, substantial retention of administrative records did not begin until the late 1930's. These records should be the primary source for the researcher of the history of the University of Virginia School of Law during the twentieth century.

With the exception of a few confidential files, these records are open, with the dean's permission, to any legitimate scholar in the field of law or serious researcher of the history of the University. Researches who wish to study the records should place a request with the archivist who will submit it to the dean. The Deans' Papers are Record Group 100, and the accession for 1978 contains four series. This finding aid includes a complete box listing.

Processing Information

The Office of the Dean Records were recatalogued in September of 2019 adding the University of Virginia classification for the Law School: RG 32 to the previous identifier. From now on the identifierll number will be RG 32/100 plus the date when the archives received the documents.

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Repository Details

Part of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Repository

Arthur J. Morris Law Library
580 Massie Road
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22903 United States