Dean Schmoke

October 17, 2002

HOWARD UNIVERSITY and Kurt L. Schmoke should be a perfect match.

Eager to win back its standing as a pre-eminent producer of African-American lawyers, the university chose a leader of stature and accomplishment who is likely to flourish as Howard's new law school dean.

Mr. Schmoke arrives in time to help the District of Columbia school celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the epochal U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating the nation's public schools. That case was argued by Howard Law School graduate and Baltimore native Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black member of the nation's highest court.

Mr. Schmoke's personal charm and intellectual achievement equip him to be an excellent mentor. And his reputation as a principled politician will enhance Howard's standing among financial contributors as well as law school applicants.

Though he was ticketed for a longer career in elected public office, Mr. Schmoke's move to academia will strike those who know him as quite appropriate. History and talent pushed him into politics. From his days as a star City College quarterback -- if not from an earlier time -- black leaders knew they had a winner. They were right, of course. He went on to Yale University, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and graduated from Harvard Law School.

Back in Baltimore, he took on the old city machines to become state's attorney -- and then Baltimore's first elected black mayor.

Over that time, though, people wondered if his heart was truly in politics. His personality and policy interests, they thought, probably suited him best for the U.S. Senate. He was thoughtful and cerebral, but not driven to move ever higher in office.

After three terms in City Hall, he decided in 1999 not to run again. With no political option available, he became a Washington lawyer, handled some interesting cases and seemed content with his new life.

Now he moves on to prepare a generation of black lawyers and political leaders at Howard. In that critically important role, Mr. Schmoke can draw from a deep reservoir of experience and character.

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