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Former Baltimore Mayor to Head Howard University Law School

Former Baltimore Mayor to Head Howard University Law School


Kurt L. Schmoke, a Harvard-trained lawyer who served three terms as mayor of Baltimore, has been named dean of the Howard University School of Law.

Howard President H. Patrick Swygert announced the appointment of Schmoke, who was the first African American elected mayor of Baltimore, at a news conference last month. Schmoke, 52, will take over as head of the nation’s best-known historically Black law school Jan. 1.

“It sounds like a wonderful opportunity,” Schmoke says. “It’s very exciting. For me the biggest attraction was to become involved in work that helps to nurture the next generation of leaders.”

Larry S. Gibson, Schmoke’s longtime political adviser and a University of Maryland law professor, said the former mayor is “the right person for this position.”

“I think it’s a real coup for Howard, and I think Kurt will enjoy it and make a significant contribution,” says Gibson, an alumnus of the university.

Schmoke said that he will continue to live in Baltimore, where his wife is an eye doctor, and commute to Washington. And Gibson noted that Howard’s most famous law school graduate, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, also commuted from Baltimore to Washington while he attended law school.

Orlando Taylor, dean of Howard’s graduate school and head of the search committee that chose Schmoke, noted that the university will soon be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision — a civil rights victory in which Marshall and the law school were prominent.

Schmoke was chosen from “a large and highly competitive pool of applicants,” Taylor says. He said Schmoke’s experience in public office was only one of his qualifications, pointing to his law practice and record as a board member at Yale University, Tuskegee University and other institutions of higher learning.

Schmoke graduated from Yale before going on to Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and Harvard University Law School, where he graduated in 1976. He joined the Baltimore law firm of Piper & Marbury. In 1982, after stints in the Carter White House and the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore, Schmoke defeated incumbent State’s Attorney William A. Swisher.

Six years later, after William Donald Schaefer left City Hall to become governor, Schmoke defeated Schaefer Clarence Du Burns, the City Council president who, in filling out Schaefer’s term, had become Baltimore’s first Black mayor.

Since leaving office in December 1999, Schmoke has practiced law at the firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Baltimore. He replaces Alice Gresham-Bullock who served from 1997 to 2002 and resigned this year to resume professorial duties.

In another high-profile appointment at the university, veteran film director and award-winning producer Suzanne de Passe was named the new AOL Time Warner Endowed Chair in Media in the School of Communications.

De Passe, a former president of Motown Productions, succeeds director and actor Bill Duke, who served from 1998 to 2002.

“DePasse brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the program that will benefit the students, enhance the curriculum, and garner increased support for Howard University from the communications and entertainment industries,” says School of Communication Dean Jannette L. Dates.

“Her outstanding accomplishments and reputation as a dynamic ‘mover and shaker’ in film, television and music mesh perfectly with the responsibilities of the position,” Swygert says.

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