Oldest Law School in the U.S. Hires First Ever African-American Dean

A. Benjamin Spencer, first African American dean at William & Mary Law School

A. Benjamin Spencer is the first African American to become the dean of William & Mary Law School located in Williamsburg, Virginia. Founded in 1779, the institution is the oldest law school in America.
Spencer, who will also serve as the Chancellor Professor of Law at W&M, is a nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert. He currently serves as the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Spencer has earned numerous awards, including a Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, which is the highest honor for faculty working at the state’s colleges and universities. He was the first law professor ever chosen in the “rising star” category for the award, which is presented for excellence in teaching, research and public service. He has been active in multiple university committees, working with faculty and students to help to shape their institutions in areas ranging from curriculum to inclusion.

His teaching and scholarship focus on civil procedure, federal civil litigation and military law. In fact, before joining the UVA faculty, he served as Director of the Francis Lewis Law Center and associate dean for research at Washington and Lee University, where he established a reputation as a mentor for younger colleagues, students and early career faculty.

A family of 'firsts'

His father, James R. Spencer, was the first African American chief judge in the 215-year history of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1986, he also became the first African-American federal judge in the commonwealth of Virginia.

His grandfather, Dr. Adam S. Arnold, was the first African-American professor at Notre Dame University, where he taught finance for 30 years.