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Commencement Information

History of the W&L Walking Stick

The W&L walking stick or cane originated in the early 1920’s. The custom of carrying the cane on campus was most popular during the 1920’s and 1930’s. During the 1920’s, third year law students brought out their new canes with great ceremony at the first home football game. In the 1930’s, every law senior was expected to bring his cane with him in September.

Some feel that the cane was a personal distinction of two prominent administrators who always carried a cane on campus. First among these impressive men was Dr. William Haywood “Boss” Moreland, who led the Law School as the Bradford Professor and later as Dean from 1914 until his death in 1944. It is said that Boss Moreland could swing his cane and snap the head off a dandelion without touching the grass beneath it. Dr. Francis Pendleton Gaines, who became President of the University in 1930, was a debonair and brilliant gentleman who rarely appeared on campus without a cane from his large collection which included one previously owned by President Woodrow Wilson.

It is stated that the canes were the privileged possession of senior law students, who were frequently a select minority. At this time, many students left law school after their second year when only two years of law school was required for taking the bar. The cane tradition was a way of distinguishing these third year law students as the most loyal, the most scholarly, and the most cavalier.

The cane was made of rosewood. A silver band encircling the cane near the crook bore the third year’s name, the initials W&L – LL.B., and the combination of four numbers representing three consummate years. The cane stayed as a Law School symbol for over 25 years before its declining popularity in the early sixties.

In the 1970’s several classes attempted to revive the tradition of the canes, but none was successful. The Class of 1981 reinstated the walking stick tradition by ordering sticks as souvenirs to be carried at graduation.




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