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University of Richmond renames law school

University of Richmond (file photo)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The name of a businessman who owned slaves will no longer be on the University of Richmond Law School, according to an announcement.

The name T.C. Williams will be removed from the University of Richmond Law School, adhering to the university’s naming principals which prohibit the school from naming buildings, programs, professorships or other entities for a person who directly engaged in trafficking and/or enslavement of others of openly advocated for the enslavement of people.

University of Richmond president Kevin Hallock and the Board of Trustees announced the name change to members of the UR community via email just after 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23.

The email explained the university’s board voted unanimously to change the official name of the law school from the T.C. Williams School of Law, which it has held since 1920, to the University of Richmond School of Law.

The nine-paragraph message detailed T.C. Williams’ connection to the university as a student at Richmond College from 1846 to 1849, a trustee from 1881 until his death in 1889 and a donor who helped establish the School of Law. William’s descendants also served on the board.

The email included research garnered from legal documents that showed Williams, who owned a tobacco businesses in the area, enslaved dozens of people to work for the business and serve him in his personal life.

The message regarding the renaming of the University of Richmond Law School is also posted online.

Buildings named for Robert Ryland, a man who enslaved people and Douglas Southall Freeman, a segregationist, were a source of controversy at UR following the racial reckoning in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. In 2021, students and staff protested the board’s decisions to leave these names on buildings as well as treatment by the president of the board. With the advent of the University of Richmond Naming Commission guidelines, those names have since been removed from campus buildings.

A website devoted to the Naming Commission explained the Board requested research into other buildings named for people who owned slaves. As a result, four additional buildings were identified: Jeter Hall, Thomas Hall, Brunet Hall and Puryear Hall. Consequently, the Board voted to remove the names from those four buildings as well.