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MSS 77-1

Papers of Frederick D. G. Ribble


Academic and professional papers (1920-1965) that primarily document Ribble's tenure as professor and dean of the University of Virginia School of Law. Also valuable documents on civil rights and related subjects. Extensive files on the Prince Edward Free School Association in Prince Edward County, VA, materials on literacy tests, law enforcement and civil unrest, the role of lawyers, freedom of speech and association, school integration, the Fred Wallace case and the Gray Commission.

1920-1965 [Inclusive]
13 Cubic Feet (31 archival boxes)

Scope & Contents

The Frederick D.G. Ribble papers document his years as professor and dean at the University of Virginia Law School, his service on professional boards and committees, the legal cases in which he was directly involved or interested, and, to a limited extent, his personal life before his marriage.

The first series (13 boxes) is comprised of files found in one cabinet and spans 1920 to 1947; the second series (17 boxes) from the other cabinet overlaps Series I chronologically, covering 1941 to 1965. Ribble did the filing for the first series, and his secretary for the second. Series III(1 box), material once interfiled in the Dean's Papers, contains primarily personal correspondence, 1923-1960.

Much of the first series concerns Ribble's teaching: notes and clippings regarding cases, students' papers that he saved, copies of exams, and some correspondence and documents relating to subjects he taught. The most substantive of these files are Constitutional Law, Commerce, and Real Property, major areas of interest to Ribble in the twenties and thirties. There is a good deal of correspondence and other material on the post-war years of growth at the Law School, as well as on the educational problems of returning veterans. A transition program was a major concern to Ribble, and he communicated with many prominent people in legal education in regard to it. Near the end of Series I there is a substantial collection of material from Ribble's years on the Board of Appeals in Visa Cases. Finally, there are some personal letters from his family, as well as what appear to be most of his personal financial papers from the twenties and thirties.

Series II has very little Law School or personal material, but instead is made up of papers generated by Ribble's extracurricular interests and involvement. Civil rights and related subjects are predominant in this series, from notes and clippings on the Gray Commission's Report (1955), to an extensive file on the Prince Edward Free School Association (1963-1965). There is a large body of correspondence and reports relating to Ribble's work on the ABA's Section on Legal Education. In addition, there is evidence of his contributions to such efforts as the China Legal Education Committee, the Permanent Committee of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise, of which he was a member, the restoration of the East Lawn Gardens of the University, UNESCO, the United Negro College Fund, and the Virginia State Bar Association. Finally, there are extensive records from seminars on Constitutional Law and Professional Ethics, which he taught just before retirement. As in earlier days, he saved notes, class papers exams, etc., from the classes.

Series III, personal correspondence, has a few topical folders, but is otherwise arranged chronologically.

Collection Description

    Physical Description

    The collection is comprised of 32 boxes, 12.5 linear ft.

    Conditions Governing Access

    There are no restrictions.

    Conditions Governing Use

    There are no restrictions.

    Preferred Citation

    The Papers of Frederick D.G. Ribble, Mss 77-1, Box Number, Special Collections, University of Virginia Law Library.

    Biographical / Historical

    Frederick D. G. ("Deane") Ribble was born on 14 January 1898, in Culpeper, Virginia, to Carolina Stribling Marshall, granddaughter of John Marshall, and Frederick Goodwin Ribble, an Episcopal minister. The family later lived in Fredericksburg, where Rev. Ribble was head of the Bishop Payne Divinity School, a seminary for Negroes. Deane had a brother, John, killed in World War II, and four sisters, Mildred, Elsie, Carolina, and Frances. In December of 1940 he married Mary Mason Anderson of Richmond, and they had one son, Frederick Goodwin, who lives in Charlottesville.

    After receiving a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in 1916, he came to the University of Virginia where he earned an M.A. in 1917 and an LL.B. in 1921. Later in that year he became the youngest member of the law faculty at Virginia, and was promoted to full professor by 1927. After receiving and S.J.D. from Columbia in 1937, he was asked to become dean of the Law School at the University of Missouri, but he decided to return to Charlottesville and continued teaching full-time at the Law School until 1937 when he became acting dean. He assumed the position of dean in 1939, and remained in that job until 1963. Although his wife died in 1964, he continued living in Pavilion X, their home of 25 years, and taught one or two law classes each year until he retired in 1966. Deane Ribble died December 3,1970.

    During the years that Ribble was dean, the Law School underwent tremendous change. In the thick of World War II, enrollment plummeted to 40: "...about one-fourth women, some few persons in the Navy...and a goodly collection of 4 F's," as he described it. Only a handful of faculty members remained in Charlottesville, since many of them, Ribble included, served either on active duty or in civilian war-time jobs. One of Ribble's primary endeavors after the war was to provide a transition program for veterans whose legal education had been interrupted. The Law School began offering courses year-round to accommodate them. At the same time, he worked to attract and retain outstanding scholars on the faculty by making salaries competitive. Soon thereafter, he began planning for the enlargement of Clark Hall and the expansion of the library holdings. In 1951-52 the Law School Foundation was established with Ribble's guidance, as well as that of alumni Walter Brown and Joseph Hartfield. By the time Ribble left the deanship, the Law School's enrollment had doubled.

    A respected constitutional law scholar, Ribble taught that subject, as well as real property, and public utilities. In addition to numerous law review articles, his publications included <em>State and National Power over Commerce</em> in 1937, and the second edition of <em>Minor on Real Property</em> in 1946. In addition, Ribble was involved in a number of extracurricular professional activities. In 1924 he received a presidential appointment as alternate member to the Board of Appeals in Visa Cases. While serving as dean of the Law School part-time, he also worked in Washington helping the Board with its enormous backlog of cases from World War I. In 1944, he took leave of absence from the Law School and became a full member of the Board. From 1946 to 1951, he was on the U. S. Commission for UNESCO and was a delegate to the UNESCO Conferences in Beirut, 1948, and Paris, 1951. He also represented the United States at the 1950 Conference on Freedom of Information in Geneva.

    Ribble was a strong advocate of civil rights and worked actively for the cause in the 1960s. He was especially disturbed by the closing of Prince Edward County's public schools and helped form the Free School Association, which provided catch-up education for black children during the last school year (1963-1964) in which the public schools were closed. This successful program, for which Ribble was treasurer, was funded by donations from all over the country and supported by the office of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a former student of Ribble.

    He was secretary-treasurer of the Association of American Law Schools in 1948-1950 and president in 1951. During the fifties and sixties, he was a member of the American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education, serving as chair in 1961-1962. In 1955-1956 he served as president of the Virginia State Bar Association. He was awarded honorary degrees from Washington and Lee University in 1949, the College of William and Mary in 1952, and Northwestern University in 1960.

    Ribble died in 1970 at the age of 72.

    Materials Specific Details

    * Note for Researchers of Prince Edward County Free School Papers:

    The Association's official papers including the student and business records were transferred to Virginia State College in Petersburg. Some if not all of them have been there since 1968. There are 5-6 file cabinets but they are not yet open to research. The archivist Lucious Edwards hopes to have them ready for use in a year or so.
    November 1989

seriesSeries I - Law School Materials and Board of Appeals in Visa Cases
seriesSeries II - Cases. Civil Rights Cases. Extracurricular Activities.
seriesSeries III - Miscellaneous documents