Because the people of Southern Appalachia had remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln informed General O.O. Howard that he would favor a meaningful expression of gratitude. In 1897, General Howard fulfilled that promise by founding Lincoln Memorial University in a rural area near the Cumberland Gap, at the convergence of the Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia borders.
Of course, Abraham Lincoln had become a lawyer well before he became President. Born to a frontier family in Kentucky, he was largely self-educated—“reading the law” and serving a period of apprenticeship before becoming a self-described “country lawyer.” Despite his humble beginnings, Lincoln argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and, of importance, the U.S. Supreme Court. Had he not been elected President, he would have been remembered as one of our nation’s finest lawyers—perhaps the best of his time. In 1860, he provided a roadmap for success in life and, more to the point, success in the legal profession: “Whatever you are, be a good one,” he advised. “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” To an aspiring lawyer who had sought his advice in his career choice, Lincoln authored a simple message: “It is only to get the books, and read, and study them carefully. . . . Work, work, work is the main thing. Yours very truly, A. Lincoln.”
As a further tribute to its namesake, Lincoln Memorial University created the Duncan School of Law in 2009. Nestled in a vibrant area of downtown Knoxville, the school is housed in a beautifully restored historic building dating back to 1848. The Tennessee School for the Deaf first occupied the facilities, interrupted only by its use as a hospital during the Civil War. Later, Knoxville acquired the property and, for several years, the location became City Hall. The site has now been transformed into an ideal law school setting.
Dedicated to the mission of preparing our students to engage in the practice of law, not only in the Appalachian region but also in the underserved areas of the United States, the administration, faculty and staff of the Duncan School of Law offer a course of study designed to ensure that every graduate is primed and ready to traverse the demanding path of this great profession. The curriculum offered at our school of law will, therefore, present a challenge. There is a reason the administration of justice is often referred to as an adversary system, and, as rewarding as it can be, the practice of law requires significant preparation.
Our young and talented faculty is the heart of the law school, offering a rich combination of experience in practice, scholarship, and teaching skills, and our students derive the benefit. Many of our students have worked as externs for prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and private firms, gaining invaluable practical experience as a part of the educational process. After visiting our website, please consider touring our campus, meeting our faculty, and exploring the Knoxville area. I am certain that you will be favorably impressed.
– Gary R. Wade
A Lawyer, A President, and A General