More recent students and alumni know it as Lippincott Hall, the University’s sole Greco-Roman style structure on Jayhawk Boulevard named after KU’s fourth chancellor. This nomenclature, however, is a fairly recent innovation, for as anyone who attended KU before the late 1970s could tell you, the building they remember was called Green Hall and had been so known for nearly three-quarters of a century.
First occupied in September 1905 and officially dedicated on November 3 of that year, “Old” Green Hall was built to provide a permanent home to the School of Law as well as to honor the School’s first and then-current dean, James Woods “Uncle Jimmy” Green. As much a campus fixture as the building which bore his name, Green, in his dedicatory address, expressed his gratitude to the state for such impressive quarters, then declared it off limits to anyone but law students, whom he affectionately called his “boys.”
Since the University’s founding in 1866, the formation of a School of Law had been a pressing and longstanding desire. However, it was not until November 1878 that the Kansas Board of Regents invited Douglas County’s newly elected attorney, James W. Green, to head KU’s Department of Law (it would only become a full School in 1889).
Despite their desire for the University to offer professional legal education, state officials could find no room in the budget for Green’s salary, although they did allow him to charge each aspirant lawyer a fee of $25 to cover his expenses. But with only 13 students the first year, and never more than two dozen before 1885, Green had to continue his law practice while simultaneously serving as dean and the department’s only professor.
For awhile, it was something of a vicious circle, for the Regents were unwilling to hire Green full-time considering the low enrollments, yet the paucity of resources committed by the state virtually guaranteed that student interest would remain small. In 1880, Green was for his part most pleased and optimistic, calling the department “an unparalleled success” whose growth would surely be “steady and healthy.”
But according to KU historian Clifford Griffin, “The regents were not so much impressed. By requesting only $500 a year for his salary in 1881, $1,000 in 1883, and $1,200 in 1885, they manifested a desire to keep Green on a part-time basis.” Championing his own cause, and that of current and future KU law students, Green told the Regents in 1884 that, “one person should be sufficiently paid so that he may devote his entire time to the Law Department.” He thus proceeded to make an end-run around the Regents, noted Griffin, by prompting “his friends in the legislature of 1885 to appropriate $2,500 a year for his salary providing he gave all his time to the deanship.”
That April 1, under pressure, the Regents finally relented, making Green the department’s full-time dean and professor of constitutional and criminal law; they even appropriated funds to hire two additional law professors, Marcus Summerfield (father of Law School graduate Solon E. Summerfield, of Summerfield Scholarship and Summerfield Hall fame) and J. Willis Gleed, to share in the teaching duties.
During its first decades on campus, the Law Department, and later the School, resided in a number of different buildings, the first being a single room in University Hall (which later became known as “Old” Fraser Hall). By the 1889-90 academic year, (when it became a school), the law program boasted 56 students and had outgrown its meager accommodations.
To remedy this situation, the University’s first building, called Old North College, was brought back into service, after having been essentially abandoned by KU following the completion of University Hall. (Old North had been vacant for most of the 1870s and served as a “home for the feeble-minded” during much of the 1880s. Its reincarnation as a law school undoubtedly engendered no small amount of withering comedy from campus wits.) Law students stayed in Old North until 1894 and then moved back to University Hall when more space opened up as the engineers left for their new quarters in Blake Hall.
One reason why the Regents proved so reluctant to make sizable investments in the Law School was that they questioned Green’s teaching methods and administrative capabilities. Moreover, even after being hired full-time in 1885, Green continued his law practice on the side for another eight years, leading many state and University officials to accuse him of neglecting his duties. (Green finally gave up his outside clients in 1893, but only after a mild reprimand from KU Chancellor Francis H. Snow.)
According to Griffin, few were “interested in pouring money into a school” headed by Green, “an ardent democrat” who refused to believe that anything more than basic proficiency in the English language and a general knowledge of history were required for law school admission – and not until 1904 did he even require a high school diploma. Additionally, Green’s relationship with his students was a point of contention as well. Many University administrators felt that Green’s popularity among the Law School student body had been courted at their expense, sowing seeds of disrespect and fostering a clannish climate in the School that taught law students to think of themselves as a breed apart from (and perhaps above) anyone else on campus.
As Griffin put it, “The relative neglect hurt Green’s pride, and he came to feel that he and his alumni cared more than the Regents for the School.” His pride was somewhat assuaged, however, in 1904 when the Regents announced that they were appropriating funds (eventually totaling nearly $50,000) for a new building to house the University’s Law School. After Green announced to his law students that the state legislature had agreed to such an expenditure, the “future LL.B.’s,” reported the University Weekly, “let off steam and the whole student body was with them in spirit.”
Construction began in July of that year on the imposing two-storied structure. Designed by state architect John F. Stanton, it was built in the style called “American Renaissance” with a four-column façade resembling a Greek temple. According to the Graduate Magazine, “no building on the University campus has been viewed with so nearly universal satisfaction as the new home of the School of Law. It is indeed a beautiful and impressive structure.” Inside, there was plenty of space for the University’s extensive law library, plus room for offices, classrooms, and a mock courtroom where future lawyers could hone their skills. The building resembled no other on campus. Its classical and stately appearance met with near unanimous acclaim, not least from the law students and Dean Green.
In the fall of 1905, with the new building still nameless, law students held a public meeting where they voted to petition the Regents to christen it Green Hall, after their beloved dean. They also expressed concern over how much access (if any) the general student body would have: “This is our building,” insisted one future lawyer, “and if we want to keep our furniture nice we must keep them [the undergraduates] out.” The Regents agreed, on both counts, and resolved not only to name the building Green Hall, but also saw to it, according to KU historian Robert Taft, that other classes “were withdrawn from the sacred domain of law.”
Green himself could not have been happier; and on dedication day, November 3, 1905, he declared, “the hope of every law instructor and every law student has been consummated. We meet today to celebrate the fulfillment of the dream and the achievement of our hopes.” The festivities surrounding Green Hall’s dedication were quite elaborate, from major addresses by alumni and faculty to banquets and musical tributes, the highlight of which was a special overture composed by Charles Sanford Skilton, dean of the School of Fine Arts, and performed by the University orchestra.
An air of bitterness enveloped Green’s address, though, as years of perceived slights and rocky relations with University administrators colored his remarks. Speaking of the Law School’s history, he said: “It has passed through some very discouraging periods; it has had its carpers and critics, and at times it appeared that the power that created it had forgotten its offspring or had abandoned it. [But] through all its trials and tribulations, through all the sunshine and shadow, it has had a noble, a loyal alumni back of it, who have loved it, who have had faith in it, who would not suffer it to die, and today it lives and is a powerful factor in the upbuilding of this great commonwealth.” According to Griffin, Green’s “sense of rejection by and separation from the rest of the University made him describe the structure as ‘this beautiful building, erected for us by the State and dedicated by it, to and for the use of the Law School forever.’” Griffin added, “It was plain that others entered only at their peril.”
“Uncle Jimmy” Green served as dean of the Law School until his death on November 4, 1919, precisely 41 years to the day that he first took the job. Five years later, his presence and service were memorialized in front of his Hall by famed sculptor Daniel Chester French, who in 1924 unveiled a bronze statue of the dean and one of his “boys.” Yet while Green posthumously stood guard before Law’s “sacred domain,” it was not long before Green Hall itself became a multi-discipline facility. One former Law graduate, William A. Kelly (’49), recalled to Kansas Alumni in February 1978 how when he first entered the University as a freshman in 1939, he had no idea that Green Hall housed the Law School, so inundated was it by ordinary college students.
Some traditions refused to die out so quickly, though. According to Kelly, he soon found out that “the front steps of Green … were the exclusive domain of the ‘laws’ and, from this strategic location, they had long attained a visibility far out of proportion to their number. From there, a traditional gathering place between classes, the lawyers would shout greetings, whistle and count cadence as coeds passed by or, a fate worse than death, hurried up the steps to attend a class in Green.” The experience became so uncomfortable for some young women that they crossed to the other side of the street before passing Green Hall. “When a safe distance, they would then cross back over to go to their classes in Bailey, Strong and Snow.” Kelly recalled also, though, “Many seemed to enjoy the attention and would respond with smiles and waves.”
Other ways in which law students asserted their dominance in front of Green Hall was by organizing annual holiday rituals. These included a Thanksgiving “turkey shoot,” where passers-by could try their luck at hitting a paper turkey with ping-pong balls fired from toy air guns. Each Christmas, law students (one of whom often dressed as Santa Claus) would entertain audiences by singing carols and distributing candy. The appearance of the “Easter Bunny” was also a Green Hall tradition for many years.
By the early 1970s, though, Law School enrollment had reached a point where Green Hall was simply no longer usable. The building was originally constructed in 1905 to accommodate 150 students, yet 1972 saw a record 481 law students, more than three times Green Hall’s intended capacity. Moreover, in spite of a significant stack addition in 1956, the University’s law library had grown to over 125,000 volumes, requiring that thousands of books be stored elsewhere on campus. With each passing year, the acquisition of more volumes and the enrollment of more students made Green’s lack of space a detriment to the School’s future growth. After the mock courtroom had to be transformed into a regular classroom, “continued Law School operation,” according to an architect’s report, “was possible only with the provision of a temporary metal building by the Kansas University Endowment Association in 1972.”
The designation of Green Hall in 1974 as one of the buildings on the National Register of Historic Places was indeed a fitting and important honor, yet its seventy-year reign as home of the Law School was rapidly coming to an end. New quarters were already in the process of going up north of Allen Field House, and on October 17, 1977, law classes began in “New” Green Hall. “Only it was not ‘New’ Green Hall,” noted Kelly, “for appearing above the entrance to the spacious, modernistic structure were the words ‘Green Hall.’ The words no longer are to be seen on the portico of ‘Old’ Green,” which was renamed Lippincott Hall, after the University’s fourth chancellor, Joshua A. Lippincott (1883-89).
In a reference to the Green statute, which still stands sentinel on the exact spot it has since 1924, Kelly said, “Thank goodness Uncle Jimmy cannot turn his head to see what has happened.”
John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas