History of Stetson Law

Florida's First Law School

Stetson University College of Law humbly began on Oct. 2, 1900, with five students from Florida. Since then, the state's oldest law school has trained thousands to become legal experts and societal leaders.

In 1954, Stetson Law moved from DeLand to a beautiful new 21-acre campus in Gulfport. An enrollment boom after World War II spurred the relocation to the 17 buildings which had been part of the Hotel Rolyat built in 1925. Today, the student body exceeds 1,000 and Stetson Law has grown to become home of the nation's top-ranked advocacy program and LL.M. degree programs in advocacy, elder law and international law. The Tampa Law Center opened in 2004 as a major hub for legal activity -- housing evening law classes, the Tampa branch of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, and legal conferences.

Stetson students study in the library in 1902
1900Stetson Law founded in DeLand
1902First graduating class
Stetson Law Class of 1916
1922Stetson Law becomes three-year school
1926Stetson Law applicants need two years of college
1926Hotel Rolyat opens
The Stetson University College of Law campus in Gulfport once housed a magnificent "Florida boom period" hotel known as the Rolyat. The hotel opened in January 1926 and was a re-creation of a Spanish walled settlement of the feudal ages. On opening night, the main fountain in the Plaza Mayor was filled with champagne.
Guests at the Hotel Rolyat
1930Stetson Law becomes ABA approved
1931Stetson Law joins AALS
Florida Military Academy students
1932Babe Ruth visits Hotel Rolyat
Babe Ruth signed his 1932 Yankees contract officially in the lounge and a second time for photographs in the Plaza Mayor at the Rolyat Hotel.
1932Florida Military Academy opens
In 1932, the Hotel Rolyat closed due to poor economic conditions. Instead of selling the land, the hotel's owners purchased a boys' school and moved it to Gulfport, where it was located until 1952.
Florida Military Academy students
1942Stetson Law closes until end of WWII
1947Stetson Law moves to naval base at DeLand Airport, enrollment grows to 194 due to G.I. Bill
1954Stetson Law relocated to Gulfport
Class of 1959 at graduation with faculty members
1957First Law College Board of Overseers
A male and a female student in the Law Library in the 1950s
1958Charles A. Dana Library opens
1963Stetson is first law school in Florida to establish clinical program
1966J.D. replaces LL.B.
1968H. Jackson Crummer classroom building and Eleanor Naylor Dana Administrative Hall open
Students in the courtyard in the 1970's
Stetson Law Review students gathered at a desk
1970Stetson Law Review is first published
1976Harold L. Sebring Courtroom opens
Sebring Courtroom in 1976
1994 Trial Advocacy Champions pose with award
1994Stetson wins all five National Trial Advocacy competitions, Carey & Florin Courtroom dedicated
1995Stetson Law ranked No. 1 for trial skills education
1998LL.M. program begins, Law Library and Legal Information Center opens
Stetson Law hosted United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the keynote speaker for the dedication of the new law library on Saturday, Sept. 5, 1998. During the event, she discussed the history and evolution of law libraries in the United States, the changes in law education over the course of history, and the rise of women in the law profession.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers keynote speech at the dedication of the Law Library in 1998
Student center
2002Student Center opens, part-time J.D. program launched
2004Tampa Law Center opens, Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Courtroom dedicated
Students take an exam inside the Eleazer Courtroom