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Drake Law School: 150 Years of Preparing Students: Distinguished Alumni

Early Years

"More than one-fourth of the members of the Des Moines Bar are graduates of [Drake Law School]. They take rank equal, if not superior, to all others here in the home of the school. This is evidenced by the fact that one-half of the judges of the District court, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, a State Senator and many other high officials are graduates of this school."
C. C. Browning, "Historical Sketch of the Iowa College of Law," The Quax, 1905 at 75 (1904).

Since that time, Drake has graduated thousands of additional law students who have used their degrees to serve their clients and communities. A few of these alumni are pictured below. Additional alumni achievements are available on the Law School webpage.

The Law School's development owes much to the support of its alumni, as recognized by this Faculty Resolution of appreciation (published in the April 3, 1985 Dean's List Drake Law Alumni Newsletter) and the alumni awards presented by the Law School and University.

Please note that these brief descriptions were current as of the date of publication of this digital display, but are not being updated.

Trailblazers

Justice Cole's own exceptional civil rights law legacy (notably finding racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional 86 years before the Brown decision), laid a foundation for the trailblazing accomplishments of Drake Law graduates.

Martha Angle

Martha Angle Dorsett (LW 1876) had already been admitted to practice law in the state of Iowa when Minnesota denied her application because she was a woman. Dorsett successfully advocated for a change in the state statute regulating attorney qualifications, and in 1878 she became the first woman admitted to practice law in Minnesota.

Charles P. Howard, Sr.

Charles P. Howard (LW 1922) helped found the National Bar Association (NBA) in Des Moines, Iowa in 1925 after he and other African American attorneys were denied admission to other local and national bar associations due to race. Howard's legal career included the noted Katz Drug Store case. The Drake Libraries include two related special collections: NBA Archives (Law) and the Charles Preston Howard Collection (Cowles).

Judge Romonda Belcher

Judge Romonda Belcher (LW 1995), the first female African American judge appointed in Iowa, was a student leader while at Drake Law School. After graduation, she became a mentor to law students.

Judge Luther T. Glanton

Judge Luther T. Glanton (LW 1942) was active in the civil rights movement. He became the first African American Assistant Polk County Attorney and Iowa's first African American district judge in 1976. The Glanton room in the Legal Clinic includes furniture and artifacts from the judge's chambers, including the portrait pictured above.

Leaders

Drake Law graduates have served as leaders in all branches of both state and federal government, business, nonprofits, and professional associations.

Governor Terry Branstadt

Governor Terry Branstad (LW 1974), the longest-serving governor of any U.S. state, was in his sixth term as Governor of Iowa in 2015.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady

Chief Justice Mark S. Cady (LA 1975, LW 1978) was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1998 and was named Chief Justice in 2011. Justice Cady has lectured at Drake and co-authored a paper with Supreme Court Scholar Jess Phelps (LW 2007).

Congressman Neal Smith

Congressman Neal Smith (LW 1950) served Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for eighteen Congresses, from 1959-1994. His Congressional archives are housed at Drake's Cowles Library. Drake also boasts the Neal and Bea Smith Legal Clinic and the Neal Smith conference room in the Law Library. (Neal's wife Bea, his first law partner, also graduated from Drake Law School in 1950.)

Drake Law Grad Gerry Neugent

Gerard (Gerry) D. Neugent (LW 1976), was President and Chief Executive Officer of Knapp Properties, Inc. in 2015 and also was serving as a Director of American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company, Iowa State Bank, Chair of the St. Anthony Parish Foundation and Chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Humanitarians and Philanthropists

Not only is service reflected in the Law School's current mission, it has always been an essential component of a Drake education. "The spirit of philanthropy that pervades the University makes its impress upon the character of the students. Instead of leaving school with narrow minds and selfish aims, they go forth with generous impulses and world-wide sympathy." "Law" in Drake Delphic vol. 9, no. 7 at 18 (1894)

Stephen Rapp, Drake Law graduate, 1974

Stephen J. Rapp (LW 1974), Ambassador-at-Large, in 2015 headed the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State, having previously served as Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa. 

Dwight D. Opperman

Dwight D. Opperman (LW 1951) established a highly successful business career, including serving as chairman of The West Publishing Group and Key Investments Inc. His publishing experience also includes helping launch the Drake Law Review, serving on the staff for its inaugural issue. Deeply committed to the law and to improving society, Opperman's remarkable philanthropy benefitted many institutions, including Drake Law School, through such gifts as Opperman Hall and Law Library, the Dwight D. Opperman Scholar Program, the Dwight D. Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law.

Johnnie C. Taylor, Jr.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. (GR 1991, LW 1992), in 2015 was the President and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, helping ensure that funds are available for students in 47 public historically Black colleges and universities and six law schools.

Judge Luvenia Ash-Thompson

Judge Luvenia Ash-Thompson (LW 1962), in 2015 was the Vice President, International Programs at the University of Liberia, and has served as a lawyer, judge, government official, and educator in Liberia. In 1986 she founded a private school, Ash-Thompson Memorial Academy, which she rebuilt three times after it was destroyed repeatedly by civil war.

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