Davison M. Douglas named Dean of William & Mary Law School

  • Davison M. DouglasAs Dean, Douglas is leading the nation's oldest law school. The William & Mary Law School was founded Dec. 4, 1779.

    Stephen Salpukas

    Davison M. Douglas
For nearly two decades, Davison M. Douglas has served the William & Mary Law School as an acclaimed teacher, distinguished scholar, student mentor, and faculty leader. Today, he'll add dean to that list.

Douglas, the Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law, has been named the next dean of William & Mary Law School, said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. Douglas succeeds Reveley, who served as dean of the Law School for nearly 10 years before moving to the president's office in February 2008. Lynda Butler, Chancellor Professor of Law, has served as interim dean since that time. Pending approval by the William & Mary Board of Visitors in April, Douglas will assume his responsibilities as dean on July 1, 2009.

"In my judgment, Dave Douglas will be one of the truly great deans in the long history of the country's oldest law school," Reveley said. "I look forward to his leadership. Having led the law school myself for almost a decade, I am intensely interested in its continued progress. Dave will ensure that."

Reveley added, "I am also deeply grateful to Lynda Butler for her service as interim dean and before that vice dean. She has served the law school with great dedication and effectiveness. We are all in her debt."

Douglas joined the William & Mary law faculty in 1990 and has held a number of leadership positions at the Law School. From 1997 until 2004 he was Director of William & Mary's nationally acclaimed Institute of Bill of Rights Law.  In 2005, he founded the Law School's Election Law Program which he directed until 2008. Douglas graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, and received from Yale University a law degree, a Ph.D. in history, and a master's degree in religion.  Prior to coming to William & Mary, Douglas served as a law clerk for Judge Walter R. Mansfield of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and practiced employment law as a partner in a Raleigh, North Carolina, law firm. One of the nation's leading constitutional historians, Douglas is the author or editor of seven books, including Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle Over Northern School Segregation, 1865-1954 (2005), Redefining Equality (1998), and  Reading, Writing & Race: The Desegregation of the Charlotte Schools (1995).  He has also published articles in several of the nation's leading law reviews, including those at Michigan, Northwestern, Texas, UCLA, and William & Mary.  Douglas has lectured on American constitutional law and history at universities throughout the United States, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.  In 2007, he served as the Goldberg Distinguished Visiting Professor at Cornell Law School.  He has also served as a visiting professor at the law schools of the University of Iowa, Emory University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Auckland.
"Dave Douglas is an extraordinary selection to serve as dean of the law school," said William & Mary Provost P. Geoffrey Feiss. "Dave comes with exemplary credentials as both a scholar and teacher and has shown exceptional leadership in his nearly two decades at William & Mary. He follows a long list of distinguished individuals who have served as dean of the law school. We are very fortunate to have someone of Dave's caliber."

Douglas said William & Mary holds a special place in legal education as the nation's oldest law school. He is honored to be named its dean.

"We are privileged to have a distinguished group of faculty who excel both as teachers and scholars, a dedicated staff, and an impressive and energetic group of students. We are also fortunate to have a highly accomplished alumni body with a strong commitment to the ideal of service," Douglas said. "William & Mary Law School has been well served by the recent leadership of President Taylor Reveley and Interim Dean Lynda Butler.  I am deeply honored to walk in their shoes and to continue the tradition of excellence at William & Mary."

While at William & Mary, Douglas has accomplished plenty on his own to continue that tradition of excellence. In 2002, Douglas was one of 11 professors from all colleges and universities in Virginia to receive the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia's highest honor for professors - its Outstanding Faculty Award.  Douglas has received the Walter Williams Award five times as William & Mary Law School's outstanding teacher. In 2009, he received a Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence. As dean, Douglas will take over the nation's oldest law school, founded on Dec. 4, 1779, when the William & Mary's Board of Visitors appointed George Wythe the nation's first law professor. A member of the Second Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Wythe taught Thomas Jefferson.  Among his first students when legal training began at William & Mary was John Marshall, later chief justice of the United States. Statues of Wythe and Marshall stand at the Law School's entrance, commemorating its historic origins.

Today, the Law School is home to more than 600 law students and a faculty roster that includes some of the nation's top legal scholars in areas such as constitutional, criminal, military, environmental, and courtroom technology law. The school offers the J.D., LL.M. (Master of Laws in the American Legal System) and three joint degree programs including the J.D./Master of Arts in American Studies, J.D./Master of Business Administration and the J.D./Master of Public Policy. In 2007, the Law School completed work on a state-of-the-art expansion and renovation of the Wolf Law Library.

The search for Reveley's replacement began last fall following his appointment as William & Mary's 27th president. Law School Vice Dean Eric Kades, who chaired the dean search committee, said the committee considered more than 100 plausible candidates and narrowed that list to six exceptionally strong finalists. Following that process, he said, the committee is confident that Douglas has the makings of a great dean.

"He is a wonderful scholar, a ‘people person,' and possesses the energy and enthusiasm required by such a demanding position," Kades said. "All constituencies -- alumni, faculty, staff, and students -- voiced enthusiastic support for selecting Professor Douglas as our next dean.  We have no doubts: Dave Douglas will do wonderful things for the Law School."

Added Lynda Butler, the current interim dean, "During my long tenure at William & Mary Law School, I have had the privilege of working for a number of great leaders - Bill Spong, Tim Sullivan, and most recently, Taylor Reveley. Because of their vision and wisdom, the Law School has risen quickly and remarkably, hiring faculty who are innovative scholars and powerful teachers, recruiting students with impressive credentials, and forging deeper and broader connections with our growing population of alumni. I am confident that my colleague and now my new Dean, Dave Douglas, will build upon this strong foundation and become an academic leader of great vision, strength and character."

Nationally recognized legal scholars at some of the country's top law schools are also applauding the choice.

"If you look up the phrase ‘a gentleman and a scholar' in the dictionary, you will see Dave Douglas's face smiling back at you," said Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School. "This is a wonderful choice. I am delighted for Dave and for his family; I am delighted for our alma mater (Yale Law School); but most of all, I am delighted for all my friends at William and Mary, and in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Pam Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School, called Douglas both "a first-rate scholar of the civil rights movement and a person of impeccable judgment and integrity. His work with the Institute of Bill of Rights Law and the National Center for State Courts has helped to inform public understanding and policy on a wide range of constitutional and election law-related issues. William & Mary is fortunate to have someone who combines a national reputation with such intimate knowledge of, and commitment to, the school."

Michael Klarman, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has known Douglas for about a decade. "He is a brilliant scholar, who has written important and highly regarded books on race and law," Klarman said.  "He's a wonderful teacher and a generous and thoughtful colleague.  He's also always struck me as a born leader.  I assumed he would one day be a dean from virtually the first time I met him.  I think W&M Law has found itself an outstanding dean."

Fred Lawrence, Dean of George Washington Law School, said Douglas has a distinguished career as a scholar, teacher and academic leader.

"He is a person of great wisdom and immense decency," Lawrence said. "All of these characteristics will make him a first-rate dean.  I look forward to welcoming him into the law school deans, a group to which I know he will make an important contribution."

Erwin Chemerinsky, Founding Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said Douglas was a "superb" choice as dean. "As an outstanding scholar and teacher, he will be a wonderful role model for faculty and students," he said. "His vision and interpersonal skills will make him a terrific dean."