The Baylor Alumni Association honored two Baylor Law School alumni at the organization's inaugural Hall of Fame Ceremony in late January. Chase Palmer, '98, was the recipient of the Herbert H. Reynolds Outstanding Young Alumni Award while Dr. Derek Davis, '73, received the Abner V. McCall Religious Liberty Award.
Palmer is the permanent class president for the Baylor University Class of 1996 and was largely responsible for the spearheading the university's tribute to the Immortal Ten. After graduation from law school, he returned to his hometown of Marshall to practice law with his father in a firm that has been in continual existence since 1948. He is president of the Harrison County Bar Association and a member of the Citizen's Advisory Council, a group of local business leaders, and a member of the board of CASA of Harrison County, court-appointed special advocates who represent children in the judicial system. He is also a member of the board of the only hospital in the county.
Palmer served on the Harrison County Preservation Council, which raised funds to restore the county courthouse; on the board of directors of Marshall Depot, which saved and refurbished the Texas & Pacific Railroad Depot built in 1912; and on the board of a group preserving a historical home site in Marshall. He also is active in Upward Soccer and the Marshall Youth Baseball Association.
Dean of Graduate School at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Davis was former director of Baylor's J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and also served as editor, from 1993 to 2006, of the internationally acclaimed Journal of Church and State and as professor of political science.
Davis moved to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2006 as the dean of the Graduate School and was quickly named the founding dean of the school's new College of Humanities. He is also director of the school's Center for Religious Liberty, founded in 2008.
Davis earned his undergraduate degree from Baylor in 1972 and his law degree in 1973. As an undergraduate at Baylor, Davis played football; he was freshman captain in 1967 and also team captain and All-SWC in 1970 as a senior. Davis practiced law in Dallas before returning to Baylor to earn a master's in church-state studies in 1988. He earned a doctorate of philosophy in humanities from the University of Texas Dallas in 1993.
Davis is a widely recognized expert on church-state issues. He has testified before the U.S. Congress and the Texas Legislature numerous times and lectured extensively on church-state topics. He has been interviewed by Time, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He has appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS News, ABC News, and 60 Minutes to defend religious liberty.
Davis is the author or co-author of sixteen books, most recently Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent, published in 2000. He also wrote Original Intent: Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Course of American Church-State Relations in 1991. He has authored hundreds of articles in various scholarly journals and periodicals on topics including religious freedom in Revolutionary America, the Supreme Court, and First Amendment issues.