New Book on Dane County's Rich Legal History Includes Law School, Alums

"Lawyers Who Shaped Dane County," a new book published by the University of Wisconsin Press, celebrates more than a century of contributions by local lawyers to their communities, the state and the nation. The book follows the story of the legal profession in the county from the 1850s through the early 1980s, with brief biographies, photos and anecdotes of the area's leading lawyers, and a section chronicling the history of the UW Law School.

Tom Ragatz '61, who serves on the Dane County Bar Association's History and Memorials Committee, laid the groundwork for the book and did much of the writing and research. "I was impressed by the quality and commitment of these lawyers, who since the mid-1800s have served the community in all kinds of roles. They became governors, mayors, regents, legislators, and many of them in unpaid positions," he says.

Woven into the book are the biographies of prominent Law School alumni, and some Law School lore. In its early days, for example, the Law School moved often and was believed to have once occupied space above a local bar.

Ed Reisner '72 also worked on the book. "If you look at the lawyers in the book from 1900 to present, by far the majority are UW Law graduates," he says. 

Their impact within the community was large, as evidenced by the many Dane County places that bear their names today. Among the Law School alumni included in the book:

  • Stephen W. Gilman, for whom Gilman Street in Downtown Madison is named, was one of the Law School's earliest graduates.
  • Known as "Father of the Madison Park System," John Olin graduated from the Law School in 1879 and later served on the faculty. Olin Park on Madison's East Side is named for him.
  • Likewise, Warner Park is named for Ernest N. Warner, who received his law degree in 1892.
  • Most recently, 1951 graduate and civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips was honored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when campus housing named Phillips Hall in her honor.

To order a copy of "Lawyers Who Shaped Dane County," contact the Dane County Bar Association at 608-848-1930.

Submitted by Law School News on May 31, 2013

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