This book tells the fascinating story of the founding, development, and growth of Florida's first law school, one that has achieved national and international recognition. The story begins in 1898, the year Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders boarded ships in Tampa Harbor for Cuba to fight in America's short war with Spain. That same year, officials of the young John B. Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, considered starting a law program. With encouragement from lawyers and jurists, they did so, and the school's doors opened in the fall of 1900 with five white male students. One-hundred and six-years later, more than 1,000 law students--women, men, African and Island Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Indians--were enrolled at the Stetson University College of Law, with campuses in Gulfport and Tampa.
This engaging, readable book covers the 106-year ongoing history of Stetson's law school from its strong beginnings in the early decades of the twentieth century through its mid-life crises--the Great Depression, closure during World War II, and threatened loss of accreditation in the early 1950s. Through it all, the school survived. Its march upward accelerated in 1954 after the school relocated to a new home (a luxurious 1920s resort hotel) on a spacious and beautiful campus in Gulfport, Florida. There, Harold Sebring, a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court (and a judge at the Nuremburg War Trials) became dean. He revamped the program, hired a strong faculty, and renewed morale. He, in turn, was followed by Dean Richard Dillon, who raised academic standards and brought in significant gifts for the school. Subsequent deans have continued to push the school forward.
In recent decades its national and international reputation has risen in part due to an acclaimed program in trial and appellate advocacy. Over the past dozen years, the school's advocacy program has been ranked first in the nation eight times, and second three times. On the international front, Stetson University College of Law initiated and maintains several programs throughout the world.
This supremely researched book describes and analyzes the rise in prominence of Stetson University College of Law. It is a history about people--administrators, faculty, students, friends, and alumni--and how their personalities and visions meshed to propel a small, poor law school into the dynamic, secure law center it is today. It is a story unlike any other in the chronicles of American legal education.