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William D. Underwood

Professor William D. Underwood

President, Mercer University & Professor of Law



President Underwood’s teaching and scholarship have focused on civil practice and procedure, ethics, torts, and reform of legal education. He is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, served as an Editor of the University of Illinois Law Review, and was class salutatorian. Prior to being named President of Mercer University, Mr. Underwood served as Interim President of Baylor University, where he also held the Leon Jaworski Chair in Practice and Procedure at the Baylor School of Law. While at Baylor, he was designated a Master Teacher and University Outstanding Professor. Mr. Underwood practiced law in Dallas, Texas with the firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman and Blumenthal, and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sam. D. Johnson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, the American Bar Foundation, and the Texas Bar Foundation.

Mr. Underwood’s published journal articles include, among others: The Metaphor of the Wall of Separation: Baptists and the First Amendment, 43 Journal of Baptist History and Heritage 27 (2008); Judicial Observations of Jury Behavior and the Need for Tort Reform, 59 Baylor L. Rev. 419 (2007)(partially reprinted in 70 Tex. B.J. 958 (2007)); Reconsidering Derivative-Venue in Cases Involving Multiple Parties and Multiple Claims, 56 Baylor L. Rev. 579 (2004); Apportioning Responsibility in Cases of Vicarious, Derivative, or Statutory Liability for Harm Directly Caused by the Conduct of Another, 55 Baylor L. Rev. 617 (2003); The Report of the Commission on Legal Education: A Roadmap to Meaningful Reform, or Just Another Report?, 80 Marq. L. Rev. 773 (1997); The Decline of Professional Legal Training and a Proposal for its Revitalization in Professional Law Schools, 48 Baylor L. Rev. 201 (1996)(translated and reprinted in volume 31 of the Seinan Law Review); and Divergence in the Age of Cost and Delay Reduction: The Texas Experience with Federal Civil Justice Reform, 25 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 261 (1994).

Mr. Underwood is an accomplished trial and appellate lawyer who has represented clients in a number of high profile cases. He represented a Texas death row inmate in habeas proceedings, eventually securing his release from death row after establishing that his client was mentally retarded and that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He successfully represented the families of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau agents murdered during a law enforcement operation at the Branch Davidian compound located outside Waco, Texas in a wrongful death action against various media defendants. And he led an investigation into NCAA violations surrounding the murder of a Baylor University basketball player, eventually representing Baylor in proceedings arising out the investigation before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. He has secured a number of judgments and settlements in excess of $1 million, and has successfully defended securities class action litigation, as well as actions against attorneys and law firms alleging professional misconduct.

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