Who Was T.C. Williams?

Although details about the life of Thomas C. Williams Sr. are somewhat sparse, we know that he was a wealthy businessman who ran a successful tobacco manufacturing and export company in Richmond in the mid-19th century. He was a graduate of Richmond College and a Trustee. Following his death in 1889, his family gave the school $25,000, enabling the College to reopen the Law School, which had temporarily closed due to lack of funds. His family continued to generously support the Law School, and in recognition of this financial support that had been so critical in reestablishing the school, in 1920 the school was named the T.C. Williams School of Law.

In the 1990s, with the growing reputation and visibility of the University of Richmond, the University made the decision to use the name "the University of Richmond School of Law" in its publications and external communications, although the official name remains T.C. Williams. 

Thomas C. Williams, Sr. is sometimes confused with a different T.C. Williams for whom a high school in Alexandria, Virginia is named. That T.C. Williams was a 20th-century public-school superintendent who, following Brown v. Board of Education, was well-known for defending Virginia’s school segregation policies. This unfortunate similarity of names calls to mind the era of Massive Resistance in Virginia – although the law school’s namesake has no known family or other connection with the Northern Virginia superintendent.

Learn more in our library resource guide on the life and times of T.C. Williams.