YMCA advertisement, ca. 1924
The South Texas School of Law opened in 1923 in the YMCA building at the corner of Fannin and McKinney streets. Organized by the Young Men’s Christian Association in response to the need for adult education, it was one of twenty such law schools in the country. Other law schools that were founded by the YMCA include Northwestern University School of Law, Western New England College of Law, New York Law School, and Southern Methodist University School of Law.
Houston in the 1920s was experiencing the explosive growth of the oil industry, which created a pressing need for lawyers to handle the business arising from the discovery, production, transportation, refining, and marketing of oil. The only accredited law schools in Texas at the time were The University of Texas in Austin and Baylor University in Waco. Confident that there was a need for a law school in Houston, the YMCA Board of Directors established the South Texas School of Law on April 23, 1923.
The new law school offered students a chance to attain an LL.B. degree at night. The first class met on September 23, 1923, and consisted of 29 men and 5 women. The mission of the school was simple: train lawyers who would serve the legal needs of Houston and Harris County. The College would accommodate the needs of working students while providing a high quality legal education at an affordable cost. There were three basic entrance requirements: students must be of good moral character, be at least 18 years of age, and be classified as either regular or special. Regular students graduated from an approved four year high school or its equivalent and had a diploma as evidence. Special students did not meet the academic standards of regular students, but were permitted to enroll with the permission of the Dean. These students were required to make up the necessary work in order to attain regular standing and graduate. Tuition was $85 per year.
In 2016, following a uninamous vote by the Board of Directors, the name changed from South Texas College of Law to Houston College of Law. This change occured after lengthy and careful consideration. As Houston's oldest law school, we have a nearly 100-year history of successful legal education. The new name identifies us with our birthplace, which is a vibrant international hub of activity and is one of the nation's most diverse metro areas. Our name changed but we remain committed to making legal education accessible, producing practice-ready attorneys, and serving as a force for positive change within the our community and the nation.
The digital collections here chronicle the history of the Houston College of Law, from early catalogs and photographs to our nationally ranked Advocacy Program. There are also collections on Houston’s legal history, including the Houston Riot of 1917, which is one of the largest race riots in American history and resulted in three separate courts-martial which indicted 118 African-American soldiers. The collection is growing, so check back frequently to see what’s new.