Biographical Information

The Law School’s first professor, John Tayloe Lomax, considered the chair “one of the highest stations on earth.” Lomax had received an undergraduate degree from St. John’s University in Annapolis, Maryland in 1797 and spent the next four years reading law in Annapolis before moving to Virginia. As the first professor of law at the University of Virginia, he did not possess a formal law degree. Lomax adopted Thomas Jefferson’s view that the study of law should include the study of government and politics within a broad conceptual framework. He included the subjects of the law of nature and nations, the science of government, constitutional law, the history of the common law, and the elementary principles of criminal and municipal law. He chafed at his students’ opposing view: “Their demand for the law is for a trade,--the means, the most expeditious and convenient, for their future livelihood. I found myself irresistibly compelled to labor for the satisfaction of this demand, or that the University would have no students of law…” He responded to the needs of his students by restructuring the law course so that students could enter practice after completing only one ten-month session. He used texts such as Blackstone’s Commentaries, Cruise’s Law of Real Property, Selwyn’s Abstract of the Law of Nisi Primus, and Muddock’s Chancery. Lomax was elected chairman of the faculty for the 1827-28 session. He resigned as professor of law in 1830 to become a judge of the Fifth Circuit of Virginia, where he served until his retirement in 1857. He died in 1862.

Chairman of the Faculty
Judge of the Fifth Circuit of Virginia
Faculty Presence: 
1826 to 1830

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