Price of Wokeness: University of Richmond Faces $3.6 Billion Demand After Cancelling Law School Namesake
When the University of Richmond in Virginia decided to cancel its connections with former student and longtime benefactor T.C. Williams and strip his name from the law school his and his family’s contributions helped found and grow through the years, it’s not clear anyone on the school’s board of regents anticipated the problems that would ensue — 3.6 billion of them, to be exact.
Virginia lawyer Robert C. Smith, the great-great-grandson of Thomas C. Williams Sr., a wealthy 19th-century businessman who owned tobacco companies, was a graduate and trustee of the University of Richmond and whose family donated $25,000 to fund the re-establishment of the law school following his death, is demanding the institution pay back the $3.6 billion Williams’ family donated to the the law school for well over a century because of the decision to change the school’s name.
The problem was that the university discovered Williams was a slave owner.
Records indicate that Williams’ businesses were taxed on owning 25 to 40 enslaved people. The university further said Williams’ personal tax records reveal he was taxed on owning three enslaved people.
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.”
Smith dismissed the name-change effort as a prime example of the university caving to “woke activists,” even though the law school arguably wouldn’t even exist without the billions in donations given by generations of the Williams family.
In a five-page letter dated January 30, directed at the University of Richmond and posted online, Smith challenged President Kevin Hallock to “demonstrate” the law school’s virtue by giving all the money back.
Smith suggested the university hand back the $3.3 billion endowment for the law school and then 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 (T.C. Williams Sr.) 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, “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…We will use it all to fulfill the charitable purposes to which it was intended.
“You won’t release any of the documents we have requested because it will expose this deceit,” Smith told the university president. “Radical leftists hate people of accomplishment; they are jealous of them, and therefore they must be destroyed. The Williams family represents everything the left hates; religious, upright, learned, accomplished and wealthy.”
In a statement printed by the Washington Examiner, the University of Richmond said by renaming the law school, it was formalizing a name that had been in use for two decades.
“The University of Richmond Board voted unanimously in fall 2022 to change the official name of the law school from the T.C. Williams School of Law to the University of Richmond School of Law,” the university said. “The law school has been referred to as the University of Richmond School of Law for more than 20 years. “
Smith argues the university could have kept the T.C. Williams name if it attributed the law school to Williams’s son, T.C. Williams Jr. instead, himself a staunch supporter of the university who in fact did not own slaves.