Many legends have played a part in Colorado Law’s story. This month we look back to one of our earliest legends, former Dean John D. Fleming. Fleming first came to Boulder and to Colorado Law as a lecturer in insurance law in 1893, a year after the school was founded. In 1903, he became secretary to the law school and continued as a professor specializing in mining law and water rights. The Board of Regents appointed him dean in 1907 and he served in that capacity until his death in 1927.
Fleming completed his undergraduate degree at Centre College in Kentucky and was awarded an LLB at the University of Louisville. He further broadened his legal education with post-graduate studies at the University of Virginia. In 1878, he left his native Kentucky for the wild mining town of Leadville, Colorado, where he began his legal career in the law office of James T. Marshall. Marshall was president of the Robert E. Lee Mining Company at the time and appointed Fleming to manage the company for three years. Also while in Leadville, Fleming founded the Allegheny Mining Company.
In 1888, Fleming was elected mayor of Leadville. A year later, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him U.S. Attorney for Colorado. In 1890, Fleming brought his wife, Elizabeth Stodghill, from Kentucky to Denver, where he worked until 1893.
Fleming was instrumental in persuading U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim to contribute funds to build the Guggenheim Law Building in 1909. Guggenheim was home to Colorado Law until 1958, when the Fleming Law Building was built and dedicated to Dean Fleming’s memory by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Colorado Law appointed Fleming the first Charles Inglis Thomson Professor of Law in 1915. In addition to being a member of both the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute, Fleming served as president of the Colorado Bar Association from 1916-17.
Dean Fleming was greatly loved by students and faculty alike, and he and his wife were well known in the university and surrounding community for their warm hospitality. Numerous eulogies at Dean Fleming’s funeral and later memorial service attest to the tremendous regard in which his colleagues and students held him. Remembered and revered for his wit, his love of literature, and his kind and sympathetic nature, Fleming is responsible for helping establish Colorado Law as a recognized and respected leader in the legal community.