By Ashley K. Speed
William & Mary Law School recently received a $5.2 million gift in honor of the late Judge R. William Arthur ’38, LL.D. ’40. The gift powered the law school closer to its goal of raising $75 million during the For the Bold campaign. Gifts and commitments to the school topped $66.2 million since the start of the campaign, with $10.5 million raised in fiscal year 2017 alone.
The gift, from the estate of Arthur’s wife, Dorothy Arthur, will support scholarships for William & Mary law students and other law school priorities. Dorothy previously gave more than $335,000 to establish a Loan Repayment Assistance Endowment at the law school in her husband’s memory.
“We are enormously grateful for this gift,” said President Taylor Reveley. “It will allow us to provide so many outstanding students with the opportunity to attend the first law school in the nation.”
Married for 56 years, the Arthurs spent most of their lives in the town of Wytheville, a small community in southwest Virginia. The town is named after George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, mentor to Thomas Jefferson and the first professor of law at William & Mary.
Dorothy earned degrees from Roanoke College and Simmons College in Boston and was an educator. Arthur earned his undergraduate and law degrees at William & Mary and had a general law practice in Wytheville from 1940 until 1969. For seven years — from 1962 until 1969 — he served as the town’s attorney. He became a circuit court judge in 1969, a position he held until his retirement in 1985.
Throughout his life, Arthur was deeply involved in the civic affairs of Wytheville and the state. From 1946 until 1950, he served as mayor of Wytheville, and during that time helped his community deal with one of the most serious polio outbreaks in the U.S. For several years, he served on the Virginia Higher Education Study Commission. During his tenure, the commission recommended the creation of Virginia’s state community college system.
“This transformative gift will support the law school in extraordinary ways for years to come and will greatly enhance our ability to educate and train the next generation of citizen lawyers,” said Davison M. Douglas, dean of William & Mary Law School.
William provided many years of service to William & Mary and its law school. He served as a member of the William & Mary Board of Visitors from 1954 until 1962, and again from 1966 until 1969. In 1965, he received the William & Mary Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Alumni Medallion. The Arthurs gave to many causes including the Fund for William & Mary, the law school’s annual fund, the Alumni House expansion in the mid-1990s and to the William H. Cabell Research Professorships.