Emory to remove Covington lawyer’s name from law professorships

OXFORD, Ga. – Emory president said he would remove the name of a 19th-century Covington lawyer and US Supreme Court justice from the university’s law chairs because of his support for slavery and civil war secession.

President Gregory Fenves said April 21 in a letter to the academic community that he was removing Lucious QC Lamar’s name from two professorships at Emory School of Law and one professorship emeritus.

Emory School of Law professorships named after Lamar will become Emory School of Law Distinguished Professors, according to a news release.

Lamar, originally from Eatonton, was an early Emory graduate when its main campus was in Oxford. He then practiced law in Covington between 1847 and 1854 and represented Newton County in the Georgia Legislature in the 1850s.

He was also an advocate of slavery and, after moving to Mississippi, bought a plantation and owned many slaves, according to the book “The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–2012”.

Lamar was elected to the United States House representing Mississippi but retired in 1860 and wrote Mississippi’s Articles of Secession from the Union.

He served as a Confederate officer in his lost cause and, after restoring his civil rights after the war, served as a congressman and U.S. senator from Mississippi.

President Grover Cleveland named Lamar his Secretary of the Interior. He became the first Southerner appointed to the United States Supreme Court since the Civil War when the Senate confirmed him in 1888, where he served until his death in 1893.

Lamar County, Georgia is named after him.

A historical marker on the Floyd Street side of Covington Square states: ‘Here stood the office in which LQC Lamar, statesman and jurist, practiced law at two intervals from 1847 to 1854, then moved to Macon and in Mississippi.

“His family settled in Covington after his father’s death in 1834, and in Oxford in 1838, where in 1845 he graduated from Emory College.

“In 1853, Newton County elected Lamar to the state legislature, beginning his career that led to valuable service to the Confederacy, the U.S. House and Senate, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Lamar’s name had previously been removed as the name of Emory University Law School.

Fenves said his decision to remove Lamar’s name from the chairs was based on recommendations from the University Committee on Honors Naming. He convened the committee in October 2020 to assess the legacies of people whose names “are honorably recognized and elevated in Emory campus spaces.”

“Since joining Emory in 2020, I have participated in many discussions about the history of our university. Our knowledge of who we are as an institution comes from questioning and learning,” wrote Fenves in the letter “Each generation brings new meaning to a narrative that is continually being evaluated and written about.”

Led by Emory law professor Fred Smith Jr., the committee included faculty, staff, alumni, and students. He gave his recommendations in a May 2021 report to Fenves that consulted with experts and considered “the perspectives of Emory students, faculty, staff, leaders, and alumni to determine the next steps for the ‘university”.

Among several initial actions in response to the committee’s recommendations, Fenves in October 2021 rededicated the historic Language Hall on the Oxford campus as Johnson Hall for the late Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson Jr., a former student of Emory.

Jon J. Epps