At the end of this month, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will celebrate half a century of preparing young legal minds for the future challenges they’ll face in the field of law.
The school’s 50th anniversary celebration will happen Oct. 27 at the school’s Downtown facility, which opened in 2010 and marked a new chapter for a building that once was the Front Street post office for nearly 40 years and a federal courthouse before that.
The event is being presented by Glassman, Edwards, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox PC and the Glassman family, and more than 1,500 alumni and community members from across the city, state and country are expected to attend.
The celebration will honor the school’s history and the people who’ve been part of that history, including former deans, professors and alumni. It will be held throughout the building, with a VIP reception in a special tented section overlooking the Mississippi River.
“The law school’s come a long way,” said interim dean William Kratzke. “And we’re very different than we were 50 years ago. For one thing, we’re in the new building. And we’re celebrating all of that together.
“We also hope to raise funds for the law school. It’s going to be a big evening.”
It is in some ways fitting that a celebration of the school’s history will unfold in a building infused with such history.
In 2006, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to move out once another location was found, and a deal was worked out to turn the property over to the University of Memphis.
At a tour of the building in 2008 before the new law school opened there, legal veterans saw both a glimpse into the future and a look into the past.
“I tried a lot of cases in the courtroom here,” reminisced attorney Lewis Donelson at the time.
Donelson, who also was a former Memphis City Council member and state finance commissioner, clerked in the building in 1942 for U.S. District Court Judge John Martin.
He labeled it a “magnificent” building as he and others looked over the interior. In addition to its post office days, the city’s Customs House also once stood on the site.
For this month’s celebration, there will be live entertainment, including a music revue covering the five decades of the school’s existence. A documentary film on the history of the school will be shown on monitors throughout the building and on special screens in the auditorium spaces, and gourmet food and beverage stations will offer “Best of Memphis” cuisine.
The celebration also will feature restaurants that are Project Green Fork-certified.
A 6 p.m. VIP reception will feature live music performed by singer-songwriter Caroline Jones, the daughter of billionaire hedge fund manager and Memphis native Paul Tudor Jones, the brother of Peter Schutt, president and CEO of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.
All proceeds from the anniversary event will benefit the law school’s alumni chapter. And with funds raised during the celebration, the chapter anticipates being able to increase its support for the students and faculty through additional scholarships, awards and professorships.