One of the original graduating classes of Golden Legal Eagles, pose for a photo. Photo provided by NCCU School of Law.

NCCU School of Law celebrates 85th anniversary, events

March 15, 2024

This year N.C. Central University’s School of Law celebrates its 85th anniversary with a series of events, which began this month.

On the anniversary launch day, March 1, Dean Timmons-Goodson and the Legal Eagles gathered on the law school patio for food and festivities. On March 12, the school held its Charles Hamilton Houston Lecture, which was presented by Professor Irving Joyner at 4:30 p.m.

On May 3, there will be a Golden Legal Eagle Recognition Ceremony. Other events will stretch through mid to late October.

“The legal landscape of North Carolina would be different without our law school,” said Patricia Timmons-Goodson, dean of the School of Law. “I am honored to be in leadership to celebrate our past and recommitment to legal excellence.”

According to Timmons-Goodson, one in five lawyers attend NCCU School of Law and most return to their hometown to practice.

It is currently one of six HBCU law schools including Howard University, Texas Southern University, Florida A&M University, Southern University and The University of the District of Columbia.

Each of these law schools have produced 25 percent of law degrees earned by African Americans across the nation. According to US News & World Report NCCU’s School of Law ranks #174 in Best Law Schools across the nation and #53 in part-time law schools.

NCCU’s School of Law was launched in 1939, when N.C. House Bill 18 authorized a law school at what was then called North Carolina College for Negroes. At that time only Howard University had a law school serving African Americans because Shaw University’s law school, the first in the nation serving African Americans, had closed in 1916 due to heavy discrimination and racism.

The NCCU School of Law had one near death experience in the 1950s, when the N.C. Board of Higher Education petitioned NCCU to phase out its law school under auspices of promoting increase in enrollment at UNC Chapel Hill’s law school, which began admitting Black law students in 1951. This petition, if successful, would have severely restricted African Americans from attending and studying law in North Carolina.

Notable law school graduates include former N.C. governor Mike Easley, a 1976 graduate, former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, a 1974 graduate, N.C State Rep. Mickey Michaux, a 1964 graduate, and former Durham mayor Elaine O’Neal, a 1984 graduate. O’Neal, also an N.C Superior Court Justice, was the first African American woman to serve as Durham’s mayor.

The law school’s first graduate was Robert Richard Bond, who went on to become the only African American to successfully pass the bar exam in 1943. Bond also worked for the Social Security Administration until 1947 and went into private practice in Wilmington.

NCCU’s School of Law is also known for its community outreach and pro bono work. This includes juvenile justice, family, veteran, and elder law clinics. Additionally, they have a Technology Law and Policy Center and a Social Justice and Racial Equity Institute.

The law school has several different degree plans, including dual plans with Masters Degrees, such as Masters in Library Science/ J.D and Masters in Public Administration/J.D. Currently, the law school has 32 faculty members and the annual enrollment is approximately 158 students.

Timmons-Goodson writes on the website’s welcome message that she is proud to have played a role in its evolving history.

“I have come to NCCU School of Law because of my love for the law school and its critical mission to diversify the legal profession. I am proud to be a part of the faculty and staff in providing quality legal education.”

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One of the original graduating classes of Golden Legal Eagles, pose for a photo. Photo provided by NCCU School of Law.
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