Robert C. Smith is not happy with the University of Richmond.
Smith, a Richmond lawyer who graduated from the university’s law school, is the great-great grandson of T.C. Williams, one of the school’s early and prominent benefactors. Until last year, the official name of the university’s law school was the T.C. Williams School of Law.
But that ended in September when the university’s board voted unanimously to change the name to the University of Richmond School of Law following the adoption of a policy that prohibits the university from naming any building, program, professorship or entity “for a person who directly engaged in the trafficking and/or enslavement of others or openly advocated for the enslavement of people.”
Williams, a graduate and trustee of the university whose family donated $25,000 to fund the law school following his death, was a wealthy 19th-century businessman in Richmond who owned tobacco companies. According to the university, census and local government records show that Williams was also an enslaver whose businesses were taxed on owning 25 to 40 enslaved people. The university said personal tax records for Williams show that he was taxed on owning three enslaved people.
Smith, his great-great grandson, says the university has caved to “woke activists” and ignored the financial contributions of generations of his family members, particularly Williams’s son, T.C. Williams Jr. Smith has said the law school could have kept the name and attributed it to the son instead.
“The University of Richmond would not exist but for the benevolence of the Williams family,” Smith said in an email Friday. The current value of those gifts, he said, is $3.6 billion.
And now he wants it back.