Board Action on School of Law Name

Sept. 23, 2022

Dear Members of the University Community:

We are writing to communicate an action taken by the Board of Trustees at its meeting today and arising from the Board’s adoption of Naming Principles in March 2022. The Board voted unanimously to change the official name of the law school from the T.C. Williams School of Law to the University of Richmond School of Law. The law school has been referred to as the University of Richmond School of Law for more than 20 years. This decision to formally adopt that name was made in accordance with Principle 6 of the Naming Principles, which states:

No building, program, professorship, or other entity at the University should be named for a person who directly engaged in the trafficking and/or enslavement of others or openly advocated for the enslavement of people.

As many of you are aware, the Board adopted the Naming Principles as formulated by the Naming Principles Commission last academic year. That commission, with student, staff, faculty, alumni, and trustee representation, as well as external expertise, recommended the principles to the Board after an extensive and inclusive process in which more than 7,500 members of the University community provided their perspectives. The purpose of the principles is to provide a clear and consistent framework to guide decisions about naming and removal or modification of names for named entities at Richmond.

To provide some context, Thomas C. Williams, Sr. (1831–1889), known as T.C. Williams, operated tobacco businesses in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia, including Patterson & Williams and Thomas C. Williams & Co. He attended Richmond College (1846–49), was a Richmond College trustee from 1881 until his death in 1889, and was a benefactor of the institution. In 1890, Williams’s family made a memorial gift of $25,000, creating an endowment that established a strong foundation for the law program’s development. Several of his children — one of whom succeeded Williams on the Board of Trustees until 1929 — also provided generous support to the University and the law school. In 1920, when Richmond College was re-chartered as the University of Richmond, the law school began consistently to use the name T.C. Williams School of Law. 

Recently located government records dating from 1857 to 1863, and a newspaper notice from 1864, document Williams’s involvement in enslavement as an individual and through businesses in which he had direct ownership and an active management role. These records include the 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedule, which enumerates 35 enslaved men and boys under the name of Patterson & Williams in the Richmond area; personal property tax records from several Virginia localities that show Williams’s businesses being taxed on 25 to 40 enslaved persons in those years; and personal property tax records showing Williams as an individual being taxed on three enslaved persons. The newspaper notice placed by Thomas C. Williams & Co. advertises a reward for the return of two men enslaved by the company, Todd and Alex, who had recently escaped its Danville-area farm. 

Upon review of this information and given the clarity of the evidence, the Board acted expeditiously in accordance with the Naming Principles.

We recognize that some may be disappointed or disagree with this decision. We also recognize the role the Williams family has played here and respect the full and complete history of the institution. Consistent with Principle 9 of the Naming Principles, we will preserve and make accessible a full historical record. 

It is important to note that the mission of our School of Law remains the same — excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. We are grateful to all students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to advancing this important work.


President Hallock and Board of Trustees