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The Father of the School of Law

Long before racial tensions came to a head in the 1960s, the quest for integration was underway on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. Important strides were made during the tenure of the university’s eleventh president, Herman B. Wells. In his 1938 inaugural remarks, Wells expressed his conviction that equal access to education was at the root of democracy. One of the many areas in which Wells effectively desegregated the public institution was campus housing.

By October of 1949, Wells had established integrated Women’s Residence Halls, an achievement that was lauded by the NAACP. Previously, black women attending IU had frequently found lodging in a private home near campus owned by Sam Dargan, whose tenants would otherwise be relegated to the west side of town. The man who had been running “Dargan House” at 318 North Grant Street since 1925 was the first African-American graduate of the IU School of Law. After graduating in 1909, Dargan became the curator of the Law Library, and a fixture in Maxwell Hall. Beloved by students and administrators alike, Dargan was honored with an entire page in the 1920 Arbutus yearbook, not to mention the sobriquet “The Father of the School of Law,” given him by Law Dean Paul McNutt.

Dargan retired from his position at the age of 76, but continued to show up at his post until three weeks before his death at age 84 in November 1954. The School of Law closed for two hours on the day of Dargan’s funeral to allow students, professors and administrators to attend. The beloved curator is buried in Bloomington’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

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