Judge’s family endows SMU law school deanship

SMU Law Dean John B. AttanasioSMU’s Dedman School of Law has became one of the few law schools in the country with an endowed deanship, through a $4 million gift from the Noel family of Houston in honor of the late Judge James L. Noel Jr.

The Noel gift is matched with $1 million from the Dedman family of Dallas, for a total endowment of $5 million. John B. Attanasio (right), dean of the Dedman School since 1998, will hold the Judge James Noel Deanship and Professorship of Law.

“Judge Noel was a distinguished alumnus of the SMU School of Law, and we are honored to have the school’s deanship bear his name,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are deeply grateful to the Noel family, many of whom are SMU graduates, for their investment in the future of SMU’s law school.”

“This is a wonderful way to honor Judge Noel and a truly historic moment for Dedman School of Law,” said Dean Attanasio. “Only a small number of law schools in the country have endowed deanships, and even fewer are endowed at the $5 million level.”

Noel earned an LL.B. from SMU’s School of Law in 1938, after receiving two undergraduate degrees from SMU – a B.S. in civil engineering in 1931 and a B.S. in commerce in 1932. He worked as an assistant district attorney in Dallas County while in law school and upon graduating became an assistant Texas attorney general.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Noel joined the U.S. Navy and served as a legal officer in Hawaii during World War II. Following his military service, he returned to the Texas attorney general???s office as the lead oil and gas lawyer before joining the Houston law firm of Butler, Binion, Rice & Cook. He later established his own law firm. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Noel to the federal district court bench in Houston, where he served until 1976.

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