"Those attitudes decide whether your life is a venture or a retreat. I urge you to opt for the venture. A retreat is only a self-delusion. Government is not an impersonal institution which sits in Washington and disperses favors, either to those who clamor or those who wait patiently. It is you."—Senator Spong, speaking in 1968 at Commencement exercises at Hampden-Sydney College.
The William B. Spong Moot Court Tournament is an invitational tournament that gathers top-ranked schools and judges from across the nation to debate current constitutional law issues. The first invitational moot court tournament was held in 1972, and rapidly became one of the leading moot court tournaments in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Spong Tournament is named for William B. Spong, Jr., an esteemed jurist and former Dean of the William & Mary Law School from 1976 to 1985. Dean Spong ranks among Virginia's most-honored and capable statesmen, educators, and advocates. Dean Spong studied at Hampden-Sydney College before receiving his LL.B. from the University of Virginia in 1947. After being admitted to the bar, Dean Spong pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Returning to the United States, he accepted a lecture post at the College of William & Mary before entering private practice in Portsmouth, Virginia.
In 1954, Dean Spong began a long and distinguished career in public service, first as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, then in the Virginia Senate, and finally as a United States Senator. During his tenure in the Senate, from 1966 to 1973, Spong worked to further civil rights and voting rights in Virginia. His victory was an upset to Virginia's Byrd organization, and an unexpected political shift. After leaving the Senate, Dean Spong returned to lecture at William & Mary in 1975 and was installed as Dean and Woodbridge Professor the following year. Prior to his tenure, he was instrumental in helping to raise funds in the Virginia legislature to support the construction of the Law School's permanent home on South Henry Street. He remained at the law school until his retirement in 1986. Dean Spong spent his later years serving as of counsel with the firm of Cooper, Spong & Davis in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Dean Spong was a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institute, the University of Virginia, Washington & Lee University, the University of Richmond, and the University of London. He served as president of Old Dominion University, as trustee of Hampden-Sydney College, and as a member of the Board of Visitors of both the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy. He lectured in India, Australia, Malaysia, and Austria. Dean Spong was also the recipient of honorary degrees from Hampden-Sydney, Roanoke College, Washington & Lee, and William & Mary.
The Law School takes great pride in the legacy of Dean Spong, and the Moot Court Board takes particular pride in Dean Spong's dedication to development of the oral advocacy program at William & Mary. The tournament was renamed in his honor in 1986 upon his retirement.