Deans of Duke Law School

  • 1850-1882: Braxton Craven

    Braxton CravenBraxton Craven, President of Normal (later Trinity) College, in Randolph County, North Carolina, the predecessor of Duke University, inaugurated lectures on Political and Natural Law as part of a liberal arts curriculum. Legal instruction was discontinued following President Craven’s death in 1882.

  • 1891-1894: A. C. Avery

    avery_alphonso_calhoun.jpg Trinity College moved from Randolph County to Durham in 1892, and the School of Law reopened with Justice A. C. Avery of the North Carolina Supreme Court as its Dean. In 1894 however the Law School closed for financial reasons, and legal instruction was again discontinued.

  • 1904-1927: Samuel Fox Mordecai

    Professor MordecaiIn 1904 James Duke and Benjamin Duke provided the endowment to reopen the School of Law, and Samuel Fox Mordecai, a Raleigh attorney and part-time law teacher at Wake Forest College, was placed in charge. In 1924 Duke University was created, and Trinity College became its undergraduate school.

  • 1927-1930: W. Bryan Bolich (Acting Dean)

    young_bolich_-_copy.jpgW. Bryan Bolich was named Acting Dean after Dean Mordecai’s death in 1927. Bolich was a Trinity College and Oxford University alumnus. That same year the School of Law moved from the East Duke Building into the Carr Building on the newly rebuilt East Campus. 

  • 1930-1934: Justin Miller

    Dean Justin MillerIn 1930 Justin Miller, Dean of the Law School of the University of Southern California, was appointed Dean. During Dean Miller’s tenure the School of Law moved to West Campus, the faculty and curriculum were substantially enlarged and improved, and Law and Contemporary Problems began publication.

  • 1934-1947: H. Claude Horack

    Dean H. Claude HorackProfessor H. Claude Horack became Dean when Dean Miller accepted an appointment in the Roosevelt administration. During World War II many faculty members left for wartime service, and student enrollment dropped precipitously. 

  • 1947-1949: Harold Sheperd

    harold_s_small.jpgAfter Dean Horack’s retirement Professor Harold Shepard was appointed Dean. Sheperd had previously been law school dean at both the Universities of Wyoming and Washington. Under his tenure the Duke Law Alumni Association was established in 1948 and the Prolocutor yearbook appeared in 1949.

  • 1949-1950: Charles L. B. Lowndes (Acting Dean)

    lowndes3_small.jpgWhen Dean Shepard resigned to accept an appointment to the Stanford Law School, Professor Charles L.B. Lowndes was named Acting Dean.  A member of the faculty since 1934, Lowndes was honored with Duke Law's first named distinguished professorship in 1955.  

  • 1950-1956: Joseph A. McClain, Jr.

    mcclain_portrait_small.jpgJoseph A. McClain, Jr., a St. Louis attorney and former Dean of the Mercer University School of Law, was named Dean in 1950. In 1951 Dean McClain received a commitment of $250,000 from the University Trustees towards a new, modern law building. 

  • 1956-1957: Dale F. Stansbury (Acting Dean)

    stansbury2_small.jpgDean McClain resigned to return to private practice, and Professor Dale F. Stansbury became Acting Dean.  Stansbury had previous experience as a dean and professor of law at Wake Forest College from 1935 to 1944.  During the 1947-1948 academic year he was also the law librarian at Duke Law.

  • 1957-1966: Elvin (Jack) Latty

    1960_059_cropped_small.jpgProfessor Elvin R. (Jack) Latty, who became Acting Dean in 1957, was appointed Dean in 1958. During his administration the School of Law moved into its new building on Towerview Road and Science Drive. Chief Justice Earl Warren was the principal speaker at the dedication ceremony in 1963.

  • 1966-1968: F. Hodge O'Neal

    Professor F. Hodge O'NealWhen Dean Latty resigned to return to teaching, Professor F. Hodge O'Neal was named Dean. In 1966 to protest the North Carolina Bar Association’s denial of membership to an African-American graduate of the Law School, the faculty voted to sever ties with the NCBA (relations resumed in 1969).


  • 1968-1970: A. Kenneth Pye


    Dean O'Neal resigned to return to teaching and research in 1968, and was succeeded by Professor A. Kenneth Pye of Georgetown Law School.  During Dean Pye’s tenure the Legal Aid Clinic, which had closed in 1959, was re-opened. Prof. Pye served as Dean again from 1973-1976.

  • 1971-1973: Joseph P. Sneed

    sneed_small.jpgWhen Dean Pye resigned to become Chancellor of the University in 1970, Professors Latty, O'Neal, and Shimm were constituted as an Executive Committee to administer the Law School until Professor Joseph T. Sneed of Stanford Law School, who had been named Dean, arrived in 1971. 

  • 1973-1976: A. Kenneth Pye

    1970_337_cropped2_small.jpgChancellor Pye resumed the deanship when Dean Sneed resigned to become Deputy Attorney General of the United States. In 1973 the Duke Endowment established the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professorship, the first faculty chair at the Law School, to be followed over time by others.

  • 1976-1977: Walter E. Dellinger III (Acting Dean)

    1970_172_dellinger_1970s_small.jpgDean Pye again became Chancellor of the University, and Professor Walter E. Dellinger III was named Acting Dean. In 1977 the first electronic search service became available in the Law Library, and the Barrister Donor Society, established to honor key benefactorsof the school, was founded.

  • 1978-1988: Paul Carrington

    1970_341_carrington_1979_small.jpgProfessor Paul D. Carrington of the University of Michigan Law School was named Dean in 1978. In 1986 an online catalog was installed in the Law Library. That same year the Duke Summer Institute in Transnational Law was inaugurated in Copenhagen (ultimately moving to Geneva (1997)).

  • 1988-1999: Pamela B. Gann

    Pamela B. GannIn 1988 Dean Carrington resigned to return to teaching, and Professor Pamela B. Gann was named Dean. In 1995 the Duke Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law and “Dedicated to Durham” were inaugurated and clinical education at the Law School was revived. 

  • 1999: Clark C. Havighurst (Interim Dean)

    1990_04729_havighurst_1990s_small.jpgDean Gann resigned to become President of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and Professor Clark C. Havighurst was named Interim Dean. By 2000 standard instructional technology included sophisticated teaching consoles and video conferencing equipment.

  • 2000-2007: Katharine T. Bartlett

    Katharine T. BartlettProfessor Katharine T. Bartlett was named Dean in 2000. Seventeen new faculty members were hired between 2000-2005 in the strategic areas of Science and Technology Related Fields, International and Comparative Law, Business and Finance, and Constitutional Law. 

  • 2007-2018: David F. Levi

    David F. LeviDean Bartlett resigned to return to teaching and research at the end of 2006-2007 academic year, and was succeeded by the Honorable David F. Levi, Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of California. Under Dean Levi’s leadership, Duke Law’s Center for Judicial Studies was established in 2011. The inaugural class of the Law School’s Master’s in Judicial Studies Program enrolled in summer 2012 and graduated in spring 2014. Several other centers and clinics were also started, such as the Center on Law and Technology in 2017, and the number of endowed faculty chairs was doubled.

  • 2018- : Kerry Abrams

    Kerry AbramsKerry Abrams was selected to become the fifteenth dean of Duke Law in January 2018.  Before coming to Duke Law she was the vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of law at the University of Virginia.  Her work has specialized in immigration and family law.  She completed a BA in English literature at Swarthmore College and a JD at Stanford.




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