Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2012-03-12

Samford University's Cumberland School of Law will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Birmingham with a weekend of special events April 13-14.

Founded in Lebanon, Tenn., in 1847, Cumberland moved to Alabama in 1961 when Samford, then Howard College, paid $125,000 for the law school, "lock, stock and alumni," read an account in a 1961 issue of Newsweek magazine.

Current alumni, their families and friends of the law school are invited to enjoy the special reunion weekend designed to salute the last five decades of Cumberland history. Emphases will focus on reminders of Cumberland history, its impact locally and nationally, and current programs that train future leaders in the legal profession.

Important dates in Cumberland history

1847-Cumberland was founded by Judge Abraham Caruthers, an innovator in legal education, in Lebanon, Tenn. One of the oldest law schools in the country, Cumberland pioneered an instructional method based on intensive trial practice, laying the foundation for what is widely acclaimed as the nation's finest program in trial advocacy.

1865---During the Civil War, the law school's buildings were burned to the ground, but the school continued its programs.

1961---Cumberland moved to the campus of Samford (then Howard College) in Birmingham after the college bought the struggling law school that had fallen on lean financial times. In return, Samford got about 40 law students, 23,000 law books, most of a five-member faculty, and a list of distinguished graduates that included 11 U.S. Senators, 75 U.S. congressmen, 15 governors, two U.S. Supreme Court Justices and former Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Since then, the school has flourished with a faculty of significant practical experience and a diverse student body.

2012---Cumberland's innovative curriculum continues to break new ground in law study through its use of technology in the courtroom, sponsorship of one of the nation's first centers for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, and the only Community Mediation Center in the South. Cumberland's trial advocacy program is considered one of the best in the nation on the basis of regular championships in national competitions. In 2010 and 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranked the program among in the top five in the country.

Cumberland in the community

The law school has about 8,000 living alumni who are located in 48 states and abroad. About 3,800 live in Alabama, and more than 2,100 of those are in the greater Birmingham area. Many of these men and women are recognized as leaders in the profession and in their communities. For many, their commitment to service began in Cumberland classrooms and student organizations.

Each summer, Cumberland students volunteer in about 100 public interest placements with nonprofit or governmental legal positions, most of which are in the Birmingham area. Students gain legal experience and the community gains from their time and work.

The Cumberland Mediation Center offers free services for people in need, and Cumberland students regularly work with the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyer Program to provide legal clinics on topics ranging from family law and domestic violence to wills.

The Reunion Weekend

Reunion weekend events begin Friday, April 13, with classroom demonstrations, trial advocacy exhibitions and a kickoff reception.

The Saturday, April 14, schedule starts with an on-campus alumni breakfast for classes of 1971 and earlier, and continues with lunch on Brewer Plaza, a brief history of the school given by longtime professor Howard Walthall, photo sessions in the moot courtroom, tours of the law library, law building and university campus, and visits with Cumberland dean John Carroll and Samford president Andrew Westmoreland. Reunions are planned for the Cumberland Black Alumni Network and classes ending in "2" and "7."

For information and registration, go to or call Cumberland alumni relations director Anne Marovich at 1-800-888-7248.


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.