William and Mary Law School

In Memoriam: Chancellor Professor Richard A. Williamson

The Law School community was greatly saddened by the death of Dick Williamson on June 22 in Williamsburg. He joined the Marshall-Wythe faculty in 1970, became a full professor in 1975, and Chancellor Professor in 1986. He also served as the College's Coordinator of Legal Affairs for the past ten years. Upon his retirement in April of this year, the Board of Visitors recognized his extraordinary contributions during his 37 years of service to the Law School and the College, and conferred upon him the title of Chancellor Professor of Law, Emeritus. 

Professor Williamson received his B.B.A., cum laude, from Ohio University in 1965. He earned a J.D. with honors three years later from the College of Law at Ohio State University, where he was Associate Editor of the Ohio State Law Journal and was elected to Order of the Coif. He practiced law at Dunbar, Kienzle & Murphy in his native Columbus, Ohio, before entering academia.

Along with Deans Bill Spong and Tim Sullivan, Professor Williamson was present "at the creation" of the Law School's contemporary renaissance. His dedication to teaching and his expertise in criminal law and procedure were matched by an unwavering commitment to Marshall-Wythe's progress, and during his time on the faculty he served as Dean of Admission, Vice Dean, and Acting Dean. The Board of Visitors' resolution noted that he brought to his role as the College's Coordinator of Legal Affairs "a sweeping grasp of the law, a rare capacity for quick and sure decisions, and an abiding devotion to the welfare of the whole."

"The one aspect of Dick's prowess that always impressed me the most," said Dean Taylor Reveley, "was his practical wisdom. There are lots of smart people on a university campus. There are far fewer people with a deep store of practical wisdom. Dick was one of them. He was not only smart in an analytical sense and in terms of specialized expertise about his discipline, he was also wise in a profoundly practical sense. He drew on his great store of common sense and on his keen understanding of William & Mary to come up repeatedly with wise advice about the myriad issues confronting the university. This sort of advice is rare as hen's teeth. Dick could give it and did give it for many years. He will be sorely missed."

Professor Williamson was a member of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation, and served on the Foundation's Committee on Continuing Legal Education. From the mid-1980s until 2002, he was Reporter of Decisions for the Court of Appeals of Virginia, which spanned 37 volumes of reported decisions.

In 2004, William & Mary honored Professor Williamson with the Thomas Jefferson Award, which recognizes members of the faculty for significant service, influence, and leadership.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, two daughters, and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requested that memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, 125 St. Paul's Blvd., Suite 400, Norfolk, VA 23510.