In this 1926 photograph, first-year law students pose with Dean Samuel Fox Mordecai (pictured front and center) and other members of the Duke University School of Law faculty. Sitting in front is Mordecai’s dachshund, Pompey Ducklegs.
Mordecai became dean in 1905, after leaving the law profession in the prime of his career to become an instructor. He is remembered by a former student as “a remarkable teacher, … an erudite gentleman, a fine legal scholar and a great character.” Under Mordecai, the student continues, “we didn’t just study law, we lived law. Mr. Mordecai was inspirational. He ran a strictly professional school and taught law ‘in the grand manner’ with a single aim: to make great lawyers.” Mordecai raised the admittance and degree requirements of the school to ensure the quality of its legal education, even at the expense of low enrollment. He served until 1927, forced to quit because of an illness he succumbed to later that year.