A descendant of a major donor to a law school demanded that the institution pay back $3.6 billion after a decision was made to change the school name.
Virginia lawyer Robert C. Smith is the great-great-grandson of T.C. Williams, the name behind the University of Richmond’s T.C. Williams School of Law.
Williams was a wealthy 19th-century businessman who owned tobacco companies, a graduate, and trustee of the University of Richmond. Williams’ family donated $25,000 to fund the law school following his death.
However, despite Williams’s estate regularly donating to the university, the T.C. Williams School of Law was stripped of its name.
The University of Richmond School of Law voted to adopt a policy that prohibits the university from naming any building, program, professorship or entity “for a person who directly engaged in the trafficking and/or enslavement of others or openly advocated for the enslavement of people.”
The university had found that Williams was a slave owner.
Records show that Williams’ businesses were taxed on owning 25 to 40 enslaved people. The university said personal tax records for Williams show that he was taxed on owning three enslaved people.
Smith pushes back against the move to de-name the law school, claiming that the university is caving to “woke activists” and would not exist without the $3.6 billion amount of financial contribution from generations of Williams’ family members.
In a five-page letter sent on January 30th to University of Richmond President Kevin Hallock, Smith challenged the president to “demonstrate” their virtue by giving all the money back.
Smith said the university could write a note for the remaining $300 million “providing that it is secured by all the campus buildings and all your woke faculty pledge their personal assets and guarantee the note.”
“We know in 1888, he gave $10,000 to re-establish the Law School and at his death in 1889 his estate contributed $25,000 to the Law School,” Smith wrote. “A conservative estimate of these gifts, just from the end of the War to his death exceeds $65,000.”
Smith continued, “The university’s endowment is $3.3 billion. Since you and your activists went out of your way to discredit the Williams name, and since presumably the Williams family’s money is tainted, demonstrate your ‘virtue’ and give it all back.”
“I suggest you immediately turn over the entire $3.3 billion endowment to the current descendants of T.C. Williams, Sr. We will use it all to fulfill the charitable purposes to which it was intended. We will take a note back for the remaining $300 million, providing that it is secured by all the campus buildings and all your woke faculty pledge their personal assets and guarantee the note,” he added.
Smith also said that the university could have kept its name if it attributes the law school to Williams’s son T.C. Williams Jr. instead.