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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Hammond, William Gardiner
(May 3, 1829–April 12, 1894)

–lawyer, educator, and author—was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of William Gardiner Hammond, a lawyer and surveyor of customs, and Sarah Tillinghast (Bull) Hammond. After attending Wickford School in Rhode Island, he was prepared for college by a Congregational minister and proved especially proficient at classics and French. He went to Amherst College, where he was an outstanding classical scholar and graduated with honors.

    Hammond settled on law as a career and prepared for the bar in the law office of Samuel E. Johnson in Brooklyn, New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1851 and became a partner in Johnson's firm, and later was the senior member of a Wall Street firm.

    In 1856, in poor health, Hammond went to Europe, where he studied civil law at Heidelberg University and became proficient in German. He returned after two years, having lost his money in the crash of 1857. For a while he was a professor of languages, but in 1860 he came to Iowa to visit a brother who was a civil engineer. Improbably, Hammond joined his brother, becoming chief engineer building a railroad.

    Hammond returned to the practice of law at Anamosa, Iowa. There he married Juliet Martha Roberts, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister of Hopkinton, Iowa. They had one daughter. Hammond returned to his scholarly pursuits, publishing a digest of Iowa Supreme Court decisions. He moved to Des Moines, hoping to develop a supreme court practice. Instead, in 1866 he joined the faculty of the newly founded Iowa Law School. He proved a success, so much so that in 1868, when the Iowa Law School moved to Iowa City as part of the State University of Iowa, Hammond went as principal—the title was later changed to chancellor. Again, he proved a success. Ten years later, in 1878, the faculty of the Law Department reported that "the Department at the close of its first decade stands fourth in the number of annual graduates, among the forty-three law schools in the country."

    Hammond's goal as an educator was "elevating the standard of legal education and the general tone mental and moral of the western bar."He was an inspiring teacher of law, exuded magnetism, and was immensely popular with his students. He loved his vocation, saying, "I always feel better while actively engaged in teaching."But Hammond had no prior law school experience, so he developed his own method, giving his students lists of cases to read, and then, by cross-examination, stressing the reasoning on which the cases were founded. His interest in legal education was reflected in his work as chair of the American Bar Association's Committee on Legal Education from 1889 to 1894. At Iowa, he chaired the Executive Committee of the university's board of trustees for some time. Always eager to improve legal education, Hammond led the battle in the Iowa State Bar Association to petition the General Assembly to require two years of study for admission to the bar. Legislation was introduced in 1880 and finally passed in 1884, after Hammond had left Iowa.

    In 1870 Hammond became one of three code commissioners appointed under statute to revise the Code of Iowa. Hammond took charge of the public law and private law sections and prepared the final report for the legislature. Another major achievement came when his studies in civil law led to the introduction to his American edition of Sandars's Institutes of Justinian (1876). Then, in 1880 he published his edition of Francis Lieber's Hermeneutics.

    In 1881, for financial reasons, Hammond moved to St. Louis to become dean of a law school there and remained in that position until his death. He presented a series of lectures on the history of the common law, not only at St. Louis but also at Iowa, Boston, and Michigan law schools. His last major publication was his edition of Blackstone's Commentaries (1890). His goal was to make the work useful to "all readers who study the law or any part of it as a science."

    Hammond's life was teaching, scholarship, and books. His great contribution was setting the State University of Iowa Law Department on a firm footing. He combined all the elements of his professional life by leaving his magnificent collection of books on the civil law and the history of the common law to the State University of Iowa Law Department.
Sources Hammond's papers are in the University of Iowa Law Library, Iowa City. Sources include "William G. Hammond," Iowa Historical Record 10 (1894), 98–106; William Draper Lewis, ed., Great American Lawyers (1907–1909); and Edward H. Stiles, Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa (1916).
Contributor: Richard Acton

Cite as: Acton, Richard. "Hammond, William Gardiner" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017