The Papers of John B. Minor, 1845 - 1893
Scope and Contents
- 1845 - 1893
- Minor, John B., 1813-1895 (Person)
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
After graduation, Minor practiced law in Botetourt County and Charlottesville, but he was quite eager to give up practice and try teaching when he learned, in 1845, that the University's Board of Visitors was searching for a law professor. Their first choice turned them down, and on 29 July, the Board appointed thirty-two year old Minor to the professorship.
In October, Minor began teaching and rigorously followed the traditional curriculum. Student notes indicate that his Blackstone lectures followed Davis's in plan and emphasis. His first innovation was the moot court, which provided students a structured introduction to local, state, and federal practice. Enrollment in Minor's classes was low at first, dropping to eighteen his second year, and then rising to sixty-one by 1850. In the spring of 1851, Minor received a letter from James P. Holcombe, a legal scholar from Cincinnati, who wrote Minor that he had a great interest in teaching at the University if an adjunct professorship could be created for him. Minor explained to the Board of Visitors that he found the current teaching arrangement "far short of satisfying my own ideas of what is to be desired," since he felt the curriculum was too wide for one person to cover. Holcombe accepted the light teaching load and low salary initially offered by the University, and began teaching in October 1851. Within a year, the two men had revised the curriculum and the number of students enrolled in law steadily climbed through the 1850s. As he had proposed, Holcombe enhanced the curriculum by offering expanded lectures in commercial and civil law, as well as equity. Minor concentrated on common and statute law.
By 1860, Minor and Holcombe had 142 students. The following year Holcombe, an outspoken advocate of secession, resigned to run for the state legislature, and Minor carried on alone during the war with just five or six students per year. In 1866, Stephen O. Southall, who had studied law under John A.G. Davis and practiced ever since in Prince Edward County, was hired to replace Holcombe. By 1867, there were over one hundred law students once again, a post-war boost in enrollment the Law School would also experience in the twentieth century. After the war the number of graduates also rose. Soon after the war, Minor worked closely with officials in Richmond to set up the state's first free public education system. His dedication to this long overdue legislation testifies to Minor's commitment to the widest possible education. We may assume that these efforts grew in part from his concern over University students' lack of preparation.
In 1875 Minor published the first two volumes of the Institutes of Common and Statute Law, followed quickly by volumes three and four. The publication of theInstituteswas certainly one of the high points of Minor's career and established him as the leading legal scholar in the South. Always enterprising, Minor in his late fifties started a private summer law course designed as an introduction for novices and a refresher for practicing lawyers. Immensely popular, this course attracted scores of students each summer. After the post- war boom, the number of regular law students dropped slightly, but then steadied to an average of 83 per class between 1875 and 1895. About 30% of those students were awarded LL.B. degrees.
Stephen Southall died suddenly in 1884 and was succeeded by James H. Gilmore the following year. By this time, Minor was in his seventies. Although he would continue to teach year-round until the end, he was slowing down. As soon as his sons, John B., Jr., and Raleigh, passed their law exams in the early 1890s, they were hired to assist their father in his classes. Minor's fiftieth year at the University was celebrated in early July of 1895, and he died later that same month.
.3 Linear Feet (1 archival box)
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
In 2014, John N. Jacob, archivist and special collections law librarian at Washington and Lee School of Law donated the last item added to these papers.
- Appleton, Daniel, 1785-1849
- Chancellorsville, Battle of, Chancellorsville, Va., 1863
- Colston, Raleigh E., 1825-1896
- Minor, John B., 1813-1895
- Minor, Raleigh C., 1869-1923
- Mosby, Charles L., 1807-1879
- Pierpoint, Francis F., 1814-1899
- Slavery--United States--History--19th Century
- Stanton, Edwin M., 1814-1869
- University of Virginia. School of Law -- History
- Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
- clippings (information artifacts)
- commonplace books
- Inventory of the Papers of John B. Minor1845-1893; 1974 MSS 79-8
- Minor, John B., Papers, 1845-1893; 1974MSS 79-8
- © 2001 By the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.
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- Description is inEnglish
- Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.