Published on September 6, 2012 by Mary Wimberley  

Longtime professors William G. Ross and Howard P. Walthall were invested as holders of academic chairs at a ceremony Thursday at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law.

Ross was named the Lucille Stewart Beeson Professor of Law.  Walthall was named the Leslie S. Wright Professor of Law.

The occasion, said Samford president Andrew Westmoreland, was an opportunity to celebrate the work of two good teachers who love their craft, "and love practicing it at Cumberland."

Dr. Westmoreland conferred the new designations, he told the honorees, "In celebration of lives of scholarship and service, and with confidence that you will continue to use your considerable gifts for the advancement of your profession."

Ross is a specialist in professional responsibility, civil procedure, constitutional law and American legal history. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he was a litigator at a New York City law firm prior to joining the Cumberland faculty in 1988.  A much-quoted expert on topics related to legal fees and judicial ethics, he is the author of two books on the subject, The Honest Hour: The Ethics of Time-Based Billing by Attorneys and Legal Fees: Law and Practice, and three books on American constitutional history.

Being the holder of a chair raises expectations and challenges the occupant to perform at a high level, observed Ross. "I love to teach, and believe that teaching and writing complement one another," Ross said, adding that he encourages students to pursue a law career about which they are passionate.

Ross expressed admiration for the late Mrs. Beeson, who was one of the first women to graduate from Atlanta Law School. Ross noted that she is responsible for the wording of the inscription, "Seek wisdom to temper justice with compassion," that appears on the Justice and Mercy statue outside the Cumberland law library that bears her name.

Walthall joined the Cumberland faculty in 1975 after serving eight years with a Birmingham law firm. The graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School is a specialist in commercial law, business organizations, state constitutional law, bankruptcy, and state and local taxation. He is a member of the Alabama State Constitutional Revision Commission and a co-author of the history, From Maverick to Mainstream: Cumberland School of Law, 1847-1997.

Walthall recalled the late Dr. Wright's presidency of Howard College during its move to Homewood from East Lake, its acquiring of the law school from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., in 1961, and its name change to Samford University.  Wright boldly seized the opportunity to acquire the law school when larger Tennessee schools were hopeful contenders, said Walthall.

"I would not have had the opportunity to teach if he had not brought the law school to Birmingham, where it allowed me to move from practicing law to teaching without disrupting my family," said Walthall. "Without Leslie Stephen Wright, I might never have found my calling."

Cumberland dean John L. Carroll noted that academic chairs are the result of the generosity of  donors, "people who invest in the law school."  Ross and Walthall, he said, are examples of the quality men and women who make up the Cumberland faculty, all of whom have exceptional teaching abilities, and are "people of incredibly high character."


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.