The country’s oldest law school names its first Black dean

A. Benjamin Spencer, a Morehouse graduate, makes history at the second oldest college in the country

A. Benjamin Spencer is nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert and current professor of law at the University of Virginia will begin at William & Mary Law School July 1. (UVA photo)

A. Benjamin Spencer is a nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert and a current professor of law at the University of Virginia.

However, on July 1, he will make history and become the first African American to be the dean of any school at The College of William & Mary, the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the country, after Harvard University. He will lead their law school.

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A native of Hampton, Virginia, Spencer has been with the UVA since 2014. He recently completed a year as the Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is currently the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.

At UVA, Spencer has also been the faculty advisor for the Black Law Students Association and the Saint Thomas More Society. 

Dedicated to public service, Spencer is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps where he holds the title of captain. He is assigned to the Government Appellate Division, where he briefs and argues appeals on behalf of the Army.

He announced his position via Twitter, graciously acknowledging those who came before him.

Spencer graduated from Harvard Law School in 2001. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College. He is also a member of Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity Inc.

His father, James R. Spencer, was the first African American chief judge in the 215-year history of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. His grandfather, Dr. Adam S. Arnold, was the first African-American professor at Notre Dame University. His mother, Alicia Spencer, is a retired elementary school principal in Newport News, Virginia. 

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“I am tremendously excited that after all these years, I am finally able to join this wonderful community of impactful scholars,” Spencer told the University’s website, “I am particularly enthusiastic about the university’s commitment to a whole-person, whole-university approach to learning and its commitment to understanding and meeting the most pressing needs of our time.”

William and Mary is a public university in Williamsburg, Virginia, which was founded in 1693. It is the second-oldest higher education institution in the United States after Harvard. 

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