Braxton Craven
Principal of Union Institute, 1842-1851, President of Normal College, 1851-1859, President of Trinity College, 1859-1882

Braxton Craven began teaching at an academy named Union Institute in Randolph County in 1841.  The following year he became the school’s principal when the former principal Brantley York left to start another school.  Recognizing a great need for formally trained teachers in the state’s fledgling public school system, Craven convinced the state legislature to charter the academy as a teacher training school under the name Normal College in 1851.  As he had been the academy’s principal, he became the college’s president.  However the legislature refused to provide any funding for the institution.  Craven sought financial support from another source and began to affiliate the college with the North Carolina Methodist Church.  To further support this relationship Craven changed the name of the school again in 1859 to Trinity College.

In 1850 Craven began to conduct lectures on Political and Natural Law.  These became lectures on Constitutional and International Law in 1855.  After the Civil War Trinity College adopted the university system of schools or departments, and a School of Law was started in 1868.  North Carolina's Reconstruction government had fired the entire faculty at UNC, replaced them with underqualified men, and closed the university's law school completely.  Craven saw an opportunity to open the only non-proprietary law school in the state.  As before the war funding was scarce and Craven taught a great deal of the legal curriculum himself.  Upon Craven’s death in 1882, the operation of a separate school of law was suspended.  In 1887 legal instruction was begun as an academic course in the School of History.  A formal school of law was not opened again until after Trinity College made plans to relocate to Durham in 1891.


W. Bryan Bolich, Duke Law School, 1868-1968: A Sketch (pdf) [], Duke Law School Alumni Directory 1968-1972

Braxton Craven (1822-1882) [], David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Special Collections Library, Duke University

Thomas Hunter, The Institutionalization of Legal Education in North Carolina, 1790-1920, in The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentaries and Primary Sources 406-485 (Steve Sheppard, ed., 1999)

Craven portrait
Historic Faculty