Chappell, 'Stalwart' of the Law School, Dies at Age 86

R. Harvey Chappell, Jr., was a brilliant, highly respected attorney in Virginia and throughout the nation for more than 50 years. But he was the epitome of what it means to be a proud William & Mary student and alumnus for even longer than that.

Chappell '48, B.C.L. '50, LL.D. '84, rector of the Board of Visitors from 1972-76, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws from the College in 1984 as well as the Law School Association's 2000 Citizen-Lawyer Award, died on Saturday, Dec. 1, in Richmond, Va., following a fall at his home. He was 86.

Mr. ChappellDeeply involved in the development of the university following World War II, Chappell was a member of the Board of Visitors from 1968 to 1976, serving as vice rector from 1970 to 1972 and as rector from 1972 to 1976. In addition, Chappell served as president of the William and Mary Law Association (1951-52) and president of the Society of the Alumni (1963-64).

Amazingly, that doesn't begin  to tell the story of his numerous  contributions to the university, for which he received the Alumni Medallion in 1968.

"Harvey Chappell ranked among the most stalwart and distinguished members of the William & Mary family," said President Taylor Reveley. "He was also a leader in the public and civic life of the Commonwealth and in the legal profession of our country. Harvey's contributions to William & Mary as a whole, and especially its Law School, were myriad and vital. With his death, we have lost a great force for good and a dear friend. We will miss him enormously."

Born in Clarksville, Va., Chappell was 16 when he enrolled at the university in 1943, one of the few men on campus, as many were off fighting in World War II. A member of a fraternity, he also worked two jobs - including head waiter at the dining hall - to pay for his education.

After serving in the Army Air Corps, he returned to W&M Law School, where he worked in the law library to defray expenses and took his degree in 1950. He was later inducted into the Order of the Coif. But even before his graduation, Chappell began giving back to the university.

In 1948, he approached W&M President John Edwin Pomfret and secured $250 in order to create what then was called the William & Mary Review of Virginia Law, now known as the William & Mary Law Review. Chappell served as one of the Law Review's first two editors. In a 1976 interview, Chappell said that Pomfret took the money from the Friends of the College Fund.

"It was all the money he had, and consequently, it was all the money I had," he recalled. "I used that to go to the Virginia Gazette to get them to print the first issue. It . . . was 30 pages long."

Two years later, he was at it again, joining with several classmates to create the W&M Law School Alumni Association, with Chappell serving as its inaugural president.

After serving as the president of the Society of the Alumni from 1963-64, Chappell was selected to the W&M Board of Visitors in 1968, despite protesting to Gov. Mills Godwin that he was too young for the post. Driving roundtrip from Richmond to Williamsburg an average of four times a week, he remained on the Board for eight years, many of which might best be described as tumultuous.

In addition to campus debate over the war in Vietnam, there were more parochial issues. Students fought for 24-hour, open-dorm visitation rights. There was a heated, emotional exchange over which direction to take the athletic program.

At that time, the Board oversaw three colleges: W&M, Christopher Newport College, and Richard Bland College. There was little administrative stability. During Chappell's eight years on the Board, each changed presidents. W&M's Law School had three deans; the football program three head coaches.

Once CNC became a four-year, degree-granting institution, Chappell became an advocate for severing ties and allowing it to be ruled by its own Board of Visitors. His rationale was that any college or university that had advanced to the point of conferring four-year degrees deserved its own, dedicated Board to guide it.

He also instituted a quantum change in Board members' commitment to the university. Previously, he said in the 1976 interview, the Board would convene "two or three times a year for a day." During his tenure, Board visits were expanded to four or five three-day sessions.

During this time, Chappell was building an exemplary law career, all of it with the firm of Christian & Barton, which he also once served as chairman. During that time, Chappell's professional affiliations and accolades included: president of the Bar Association of the City of Richmond (1969-70) and recipient of the Hunter W. Martin Professionalism Award (1999); president of the Virginia State Bar (1977-78); executive committee member of the Virginia Bar Association (1973-77) and recipient of the William B. Spong, Jr., Professionalism Award (1999); member of the Board of Governors of the ABA (1978-81) and chairman of the association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (1977-78); a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, of which he was president (1986-87); and a member of the American Law Institute.

"Harvey Chappell was one of our most distinguished graduates," said W&M Law School Dean Davison Douglas. "He embodied the concept of the 'Citizen Lawyer' as well as anyone I have ever met. For several decades, he provided significant leadership to the legal profession in our state and nation, to the civic and religious life of Richmond, and to William & Mary. His legacy will live on here at Marshall-Wythe for years to come. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know him."

Chappell also was president of the Children's Hospital of Richmond, and a member of the Virginia State University Board of Visitors.

Survivors include his wife, Joan Midkiff Farley Chappell, and his son, Robert H. Chappell III, his wife, Karen Kay, and their daughter, Ann, of Richmond, along with numerous nieces, nephews, and stepchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 10:30 a.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church, 8787 River Road in Richmond. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the College of William & Mary Foundation, Office of Development, P.O. Box 169, Williamsburg, VA 23187, to be applied to the Chappell Scholarship Funds.