This view of the first block of Commerce Street conjures up so many stories. One of my favorites involves the Odyssey of the Jones Law School. The conversant amongst you will recall that the school was founded in 1928 by my very distant cousin, the omnipotent Judge Walter B Jones, and named for his father, Gov Thomas Goode Jones. For its first decade or so, its students mostly “read law” in a back room of the Judge’s home on Adams Avenue. The school did not even make the City Directory until 1938 or thereabouts. Then, as a night school, it grew sufficiently to require a real home, and led a sort of nomad existence, moving from place to place downtown as cheap space availed itself. Finally, around 1950 the Jones Law School found a permanent home at 122 South Hull, in a duplex located right behind Walter B’s Adams Avenue house. I even took a class in the duplex.
But school growth had its downside. By then it’s mild success was irritating the University of Alabama, which felt the operation was impinging on its exclusive territory. Concerted efforts to have Jones Law legislated out of existence failed year after year. Finally, in utter frustration, the University bought the little school and renamed it “Jones Law Institute”. Thus, 1971 found Judge Jones’ modest creation housed in the University of Alabama’s lobby headquarters on Commerce Street. Shortly before, UA had closed its classroom operation out on Southern Boulevard and moved downtown. Their office would be the left-most of the three dwarfs in my picture, the one with the green awning. If memory serves me correctly, the University sent Dr David Bronner to Montgomery to run its new stepchild –and we all know how that turned out. Sad to say, that ownership was short lived; 1975 found the Jones Law School once again an orphan, but now on the campus of Huntingdon College. It stayed there until 1983, when it was acquired by Faulkner University and moved over to that school’s Atlanta Highway campus.
The University of Alabama notwithstanding, the Jones Law School seems to have thrived at Faulkner. It moved into its own impressive new building a few years back (previously reported here), and attained full Bar Association accreditation in 2006. But even more telling, a look at the current State Supreme Court makeup reveals three grads of the U of A, and sitting beside them, two grads of the Jones Law School. Quite a step up, I’d say. Judge Jones and my friend Paul Smith should feel most proud.