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News Leader (Sept. 15, 1966)


WILLIAMSBURG-- The National Park Service has agreed to clarify its citation to a Connecticut historical group to preserve the [historical] priority of the College of William and Mary in the field of legal education.

The service agreed to designate the site of the former Litchfield, Conn. Law School as "Tapping Reeve's proprietary law school, the first in the United States not associated with a college or university . . .," it was announced Wednesday.

In a letter to College of William and Mary officials, the service said it had made the clarification to meet objections [raised] by William and Mary to the wording of its first citation awarded Litchfield.

The initial citation said simply, "Tapping Reeve's law school, the first in the United States . . ."

The service said copies of the earlier statement have been destroyed and that the revised statement will be used in future releases made by the department.

A.C. Stratton, acting director of the service, the unit within the Department of Interior that makes historical site designations, told college officials that:

"We are in full agreement with the thought quoted by you from a statement by Dean Erwin N. Griswold of Harvard Law School that the difference between the significance of the Tapping Reeve School and that of William and Mary is essentially one of definition."

Dean Griswold had said in a book published in 1965 that while the William and Mary law program [began] with a professorship in law, rather than as a separate law school, there is "no doubt" that the William and Mary program should be known as the first law school in America.

Dr. W. Melville Jones, dean of William and Mary, said that the revised law [school] statement "is deeply appreciated and accurately reflects, for purposes of historical recognition, the status of the famed Tapping Reeve school which was so influential in New England during the time it was in existence.

"At the same time, the Department of the Interior thus [preserves] the historical priority of the law program at the College of William and Mary, which program began in December, 1779, with the appointment of George Wythe as first professor [o]f law and police. While not known at that time as a "law school," the Wythe program had all of the earmarks which constitute the professional study of law; Tapping Reeve, five years later, actually designated his program as a 'l[a]w school'."


Legal Education, Law Schools, History