In a U.S. rarity, law school adopts name of practicing Black attorney

Students walk the The York University campus in Toronto
REUTERS/Mark Blinch

(Reuters) - St. Thomas University School of Law on Wednesday rebranded as the Benjamin L. Crump College of Law, making the Miami-area law school the only one in the United States named for a living Black lawyer.

Among the 199 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, only one other campus bears the name of a Black lawyer—Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, named for the pioneering Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice who died in 1993.

Crump is a prominent civil rights attorney who has represented many families of Black victims of violence, including those of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. He has been a leading voice in condemning police brutality and racial inequality.

“We have come such a long way in the journey to equality, but we are not there yet,” Crump said in a statement. He said St. Thomas' law graduates will carry on the work of today’s civil rights lawyers.

At least 45 ABA-accredited law schools are named for a person—a mix of historical figures and practicing lawyers. Just two are named for women: Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law.

When law schools rename for a living person, it is often accompanied by a sizable donation from the new namesake. For example, Pepperdine University’s law school became the Rick J. Caruso School of Law in 2019 after the attorney and real estate magnate donated $50 million.

A St. Thomas spokesperson said Thursday that Crump made a $1 million monetary gift to the school and that others, including actor Will Smith, have also donated to support the name change and a capital campaign to fund a new law school building.

Crump said he was drawn to St. Thomas in part due to its diverse student body. ABA data show that students of color comprised 79% of its enrollment in 2022. Two-thirds were Hispanic, while 7% were Black.

That is significantly higher than the national pool of law students, which was 33% non-white in 2022, according to the ABA's figures. Nationwide, 8% of law students in 2022 were Black.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com