Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2012-04-14

Cumberland School of Law celebrated its 50th anniversary as a part of Samford University Saturday, April 14, with special events that attracted more than 400 alumni and guests from throughout the nation.

Highlights included a ceremony that honored two outstanding alumni, a longtime administrator and others; and the naming of a trial courtroom to honor the oldest existing plaintiff's law firm in Alabama.

The special observance, with events for alumni, faculty and staff, celebrated Cumberland's move from Lebanon, Tenn., where it was founded in 1847, to Alabama to become part of Samford in 1961.

The newly named Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton Advanced Advocacy Courtroom recognizes the strong relationship among the law school, the Birmingham law firm and Cumberland alumni who have served the firm and law school for many years, said Cumberland Dean John L. Carroll.

Currently, eight partners and one associate at the firm, now in its second century, received their legal education at Cumberland. Many colleagues have helped lead the school's advocacy training to national prominence that includes U.S. News & World Report consistently ranking Cumberland's trial advocacy trial program among the top five in the country.

The courtroom, located on the third floor of Memory Leake Robinson Hall, the law building, is outfitted with state of the art technology to train trial advocates in the latest developments in that aspect of practice, said Carroll.

Carroll presented awards to individuals for outstanding achievement and service in a variety of alumni, administration and teaching capacities.

Honorees included: the late Jere F. White, Jr., recognized posthumously as 2012 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year; Latanishia D. Watters, Young Alumna of the Year; and James N. Lewis, Jr., Friend of the Law School.

White, a 1980 cum laude graduate, was a former member of Bradley Arant LLC law firm and a founding member of Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC., both in Birmingham. A member of the Cumberland board of advisors, he established the Jere White Fellows Program at the law school to identify, nurture and encourage outstanding students who have a passion for the law as an avenue of service.

He died in October, 2011, of cancer, after a 30-year law career during which he handled civil cases of all types in state and federal courts in Alabama and throughout the U.S.  A Georgia native, he was a graduate of the University of Georgia.

White's widow, Lyda White, and son, Bennett White, accepted his award.

Watters, a 2001 Cumberland graduate, is a partner in the Birmingham law firm of Haskell Slaughter. Her commercial litigation practice crosses a spectrum of specialized areas.  A graduate of the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2010 and a past president of the Magic City Bar Association, she has also held various national leadership positions. Most recently, she was elected 2010-2011 assembly clerk of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

She has given local leadership to American Cancer Society and Girls, Inc., of Central Alabama. A Mobile, Ala., native and 1998 graduate of Millsaps College,  Watters also holds a master of business administration degree from Samford.

Lewis retired in February as vice dean of development and administration at Cumberland after serving Samford for 25 years. He holds a bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University, master's and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a master of business administration degree from Emory University.

In receiving the law school honor, he was cited for his acceptance of jobs big and small with contemplation, professionalism and good humor, his calming demeanor, and the relationships he developed with alumni and others during his tenure at Cumberland.

Five Cumberland faculty members were cited for outstanding service to the law school.

The 2012 Harvey S. Jackson Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Henry "Corky" Strickland for his instruction of first-year law students; and to William G. Ross and Herman "Rusty" Johnson for their service in upper level classes.

The Lightfoot, Franklin & White Faculty Scholarship Award went to junior faculty member Woodrow Hartzog and senior faculty member David M. Smolin.

Cumberland alumni events continued on Saturday evening with hundreds more graduates enjoying class reunion parties.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.