Ceremony Honoring Legacy of Judge R.E.B. Baylor to Feature Namesake's Rare Law Documents
- Students sit on the statue of Judge R.E.B. Baylor, the university's namesake and co-founder, and give a "Sic 'em, Bears!" (Baylor Photography)
- Pat Neff Hall stands tall behind the statue of Judge R.E.B. Baylor on the Baylor University campus. (Baylor Photography)
- Baylor Law School is housed in the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center. (Baylor Photography)
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 9, 2015) – The public will have a rare opportunity to view historical 19th-century documents that belonged to Baylor University’s namesake and co-founder Judge R.E.B. Baylor during a ceremony at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the Jim Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Classroom and Courtroom at Baylor Law School.
Judge Baylor’s book of law documents – on loan for one afternoon only from the Brazos County Courthouse – contains civil and criminal proceedings, documentation of the first grand jury in Brazos County, as well as allegations against elected officials. Judge Baylor served as the first judge in the Third District of the Republic of Texas.
“For me to sit there in the presence of that book and to know that this man traveled by horseback and wrote with a quill by candlelight really took me back in time,” said Marc Hamlin, Brazos County district clerk, who oversaw the preservation of the documents after they were found deteriorating in courthouse storage.
Wednesday’s ceremony honoring Judge Baylor’s legacy will include remarks from Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr; The Hon. Jennifer Elrod, judge of the United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, and member of Baylor’s Board of Regents; The Hon. Thomas R. Phillips, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas; The Hon. Mark Davidson, retired judge of the 11th District Court, Harris County; Brad Toben, J.D., dean of Baylor Law School; and Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of Baylor Libraries.
“Those attending the event will learn more about Judge Baylor’s legacy, and they’ll have the opportunity to hear from great legal minds,” said Susan Wommack, J.D., senior director of development for Baylor Law School.
Several of Wednesday’s scheduled speakers were integral to the extensive preservation efforts, Hamlin said.
“The documents are now secured, but the deterioration process had already taken place. We categorized them and were able to get enough funding through the filing of civil cases and the State of Texas to allow us to collect the preservation fund,” Hamlin said. “When Judge Davidson and Judge Elrod came to me and explained that Judge Baylor was one of the founders of Baylor and the first district judge in the Third District in the Republic of Texas, we gave his documents priority.”
In 1841, 35 delegates to the Union Baptist Association meeting accepted the suggestion of Judge Baylor and the Rev. William Milton Tryon to establish a Baptist university in Texas. The Texas Baptist Education Society then petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas to charter a Baptist university in the fall of 1844. Republic President Anson Jones signed the Act of Congress on Feb. 1, 1845, officially establishing Baylor University.
“I’ve had the opportunity to stand in front of the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence; and standing reading Judge Baylor’s documents gave me the same surreal and overwhelming feeling. You can’t help but recognize the people who set the groundwork so many years ago for this country,” Hamlin said.
Baylor Law School, housed in the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, is located at 1114 S. University Parks Drive in Waco. A reception will follow the ceremony.
Baylor Media Communications student newswriter Ashton Brown contributed to this story.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL
Established in 1849, Baylor Law School was the first law school in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,000 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide on a career in public service. The Law School boasts two Texas governors, members or former members of the U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S.News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as the third best in the nation. Baylor Law School is ranked No. 56 in the magazine’s 2012 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” Learn more at www.baylor.edu/law.