Joseph Adolphus McClain
Law School Dean 1950-1956

Joseph McClain was appointed Law School Dean in 1950.  He had already both taught law and served as law school dean at several universities. However he spent most of the decade before he came to Duke working as counsel for railroad companies in the Midwest. 

Under McClain’s leadership the law school made two major accomplishments.  The first, in 1951, was a commitment of $250,000 from the University Trustees towards a new law school building.  The Gothic building on the West Campus quad had become too small.  There was no longer enough room for the law library, which had grown to over 100,000 volumes.  While it would be several more years before the new building was a reality, these funds brought that goal much more within reach.

The second accomplishment was the publication of the first American law school placement bulletin in 1952.  The bulletin listed biographical and educational information and career preferences of members of that year’s graduating class who had not yet secured employment.  It was sent to law firms and other potential legal employers.

McClain had begun his teaching career in law at his alma mater, Mercer University, in 1926 and shortly obtained his first tenure as law school dean there as well.  He was also law school dean at the University of Louisville and Washington University in St. Louis.  From 1942 to 1945 he was vice president and general counsel at the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, and from 1945 to 1950 general counsel at the Wabash Railroad Company. 

McClain resigned in 1956 to return to private practice.  In the 1960s he was elected to a seat in the Florida legislature.


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

Duke University, School of Law, Bulletin of Duke University School of Law [serial]

Joseph Adolphus McClain
Historic Faculty