When the decision was made in 1915 to move Emory College to Druid Hills and expand it into a university, the seeds were planted for the establishment of a law school.
The original law school building (now Carlos Hall) was one of the original buildings on the Emory Quadrangle, constructed in 1916. The building, with its graceful central staircase and Georgia marble facade, was designed by the highly regarded Beaux Arts architect Henry Hornbostel.
Professor Herschel W. Arant and Bishop Warren A. Candler, the chancellor of Emory University, aspired to create a school that would be in league with the law schools of Harvard, Yale, Columbia and similar nationally recognized universities. Arant and Candler agreed that the admission requirements should be demanding. Initially, two years of college were required—considerably more than the 14 credit hours of college required by other schools in the South.
The Emory Board of Trustees named the new enterprise L.Q.C. Lamar School of Law. Lamar had graduated from Emory College in 1845 and two years later married the daughter of the president of the College. Lamar had a distinguished career as a statesman, scholar and lawyer. He was thought of as a role model for future graduates of the school.
Twenty-eight students enrolled in the fall of 1916. They were offered a total of 20 courses. A year after the school's opening, the United States entered World War I, and the enrollment in Fall 1917 plummeted to 14, only three of whom were first-year students.
In 1919, the law school hired its first dean, Samuel C. Williams, who would serve for five years. During this period, enrollment increased and the full-time faculty grew to five. Under Dean Williams' leadership, the law school was the first in Georgia to be admitted membership in the Association of American Law Schools. In 1923, the American Bar Associated classified Emory as a "Class A" school. The only other schools in the Southeast to be honored with this designation were the University of Virginia and Washington and Lee.
E. Smythe Gambrell, a graduate of Harvard Law School, joined the adjunct faculty in 1924. He served on the faculty until the eve of World War II and later provided the gift that enabled the construction of the present day law school building—Gambrell Hall, named in memory of his parents.
Despite terrible financial pressure, Emory University chose not to close the law school during World War II. Instead, the school, with the permission of the American Bar Association, shifted to an evening part-time program with only two full-time professors. The reinstituting a full-time day program in 1946, and the evening program was eventually phased out in 1970.
In 1961, Dean Ben F. Johnson Jr. 36C 40L 05H and Henry L. Bowden 32C 34L 59H, chair of the Board of Trustees, led Emory's successful suit against the State of Georgia to overturn a state constitutional provision that prohibited private schools from integrating without losing their tax exemption.
Derived from Professor Nathaniel Gozansky's "An Incomplete History of Emory Law School."