Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Article on the Girard Will & Two Major Supreme Court Decisions

Girard collegeSteven P. Brown recently published an Article entitled, The Girard Will and Twin Landmarks of Supreme Court History, 41 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 7–20 (2016). Provided below is an introduction to the Article:

In June 2013, the trustees of Girard College announced drastic changes in the operations of the boarding school that had served the poor children of Philadelphia since 1848. Looming financial concerns, they said, necessitated the elimination of the school's secondary education and boarding programs. While distressing to students and their families as well as to Girard's staff, the announcement received relatively little notice outside of Pennsylvania. The school's difficulties were simply not that unique given the nationwide economic struggles wrought by the recession of 2008, and there was little else about Girard to commend itself to the national media. That, however, was not always the case.

From its controversial founding as part of a bequest from one of the richest men ever to live in America, to its mission to care for the “poor, white, male” children of Philadelphia, Girard College has been the focal point of national attention before. Much of that interest derived from state and federal litigation involving the school, including two major Supreme Court decisions dealing with questions of religion and race. Arising out of the same bequest, but separated by more than a century, these rulings link the Taney and Warren Courts as well as the antebellum and civil rights eras. They also garnered for Girard College the distinction, as the New York Times put it (and with reference to the school's Greek Revival design), as “a landmark of judicial as well as architectural history.”


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