A Virginia lawyer is demanding University of Richmond pay $3.6 billion after removing family member's name from law school
A Virginia lawyer is demanding the University of Richmond pay his family more than $3 billion after the school changed the name of its law school, which was named after his relative. T.C. Williams Law School was named after a tobacco business owner who owned 25 to 40 enslaved people, according to the university, which changed the name of the school last year after hundreds of students and faculty protested.
The school changed the names of six buildings last year in response to the protests over buildings named after people who owned slaves, including Ryland Hall, named after the school's first president, who owned slaves, and Freeman Hall, named after a man who advocated for segregation, eugenics and prohibiting interracial marriage, according to local news outlet Richmond.com.
T.C. Williams Law School was changed to University of Richmond School of Law last year, but local lawyer Robert C. Smith, a descendant of Williams, is now asking the school to pay back his family now that the name has been changed.
Smith wrote a letter to University of Richmond President Kevin F. Hallock, published on Real Clear Markets, calling the university's decision to "dename" the T.C. Williams Law School "shameful." Smith said his family members were responsible for developing much of early Richmond and contributing to the school.
T.C. Williams Sr., who attended the university from 1846 to 1849, served on its board. "We know in 1888, he gave $10,000 to re-establish the Law School and at his death in 1889 his estate contributed $25,000 to the Law School," Smith wrote. "A conservative estimate of these gifts, just from the end of the War to his death exceeds $65,000."
Relatives continued to give to the university after T.C. Williams Sr.'s death, Smith said. T.C. Williams, Jr., who attended the school and became chairman of its executive committee, "received no compensation for his efforts," Smith said. He also helped keep the doors of the private school open, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Smith calculated that his family has given a total of $3.6 billion to the university over the decades. "Numbers don't lie," he writes. "It might be worthwhile for you to require every woke activist to take a course in finance to appreciate those for whom they want to cancel."
Similar protests have taken place across the country in recent years and the names of institutions around the county have been changed due to concerns about the origins of their names. Several Confederate statues have also been removed from public spaces across the U.S.
In 2020, a Virginia high school once named after Confederate general and slave owner Robert E. Lee changed to John Lewis High School.
A high school in Alexandria made famous by the movie "Remember the Titans" also got a name change in 2020. The school was also named T.C. Williams High School – but after a different T.C. Williams. That high school was named after a superintendent, Thomas Chambliss Williams, who advocated segregation, according to CBS Sports.
In 2021, the University of San Francisco board of directors voted to change the name of UC Hastings Law School, which was named after the school's founder, who harmed Yuki Indians in the Round Valley and Eden Valley region. In 2023, the board officially renamed the school UC College of the Law, San Francisco.
And in December, Richmond, which was once the capital of the Confederacy, removed its last Confederate monument – a bronze statue of Confederate General A.P. Hill. The city had been working for two years to remove all Confederate monuments.
In his letter, Smith admits that T.C. Williams Sr. and his brothers "all served Virginia and the Confederacy when their country called upon them," adding that the university could have been destroyed during the war "had not brave men sacrificed their lives." He also said T.C. Williams Jr. had no connection to slavery.
After discovering T.C. Williams Sr. operated two tobacco companies in the 1800s and owned slaves, the university's board of directors voted unanimously to change the law school's name, according to Reuters.
In a letter to students in September, Hallock said the school recognizes "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," Hallock said.
CBS News has reached out to Hallock and representatives for the school and is awaiting response.
Smith used coarse language in his letter, calling Hallock "a carpet bagging weasel," and compared activists to fictional mob boss Tony Soprano, from the hit HBO show "The Sopranos."
Smith said using historical rates of return, he calculated the amount the Williams family has contributed to the University of Richmond over 200 years.
"The university's endowment is $3.3 billion," he writes in the letter. "Since you and your activists went out of your way to discredit the Williams name, and since presumably the Williams family's money is tainted, demonstrate your 'virtue' and give it all back. I suggest you immediately turn over the entire $3.3 billion endowment to the current descendants of T.C. Williams, Sr."
He said the family will take "a note back for the remaining $300 million, providing that it is secured by all the campus buildings and all your woke faculty pledge their personal assets and guarantee the note."
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