GW Law Receives $1.25 Million Gift

The gift from the Dee J. Kelly Foundation—named for the late, distinguished alumnus of GW Law—provides the school with financial support.

Dee Kelly, Sr. and Dee Kelly, Jr.
Dee Kelly, Sr., JD '54, with his son, Dee Kelly, Jr.
July 17, 2017

The George Washington University Law School announced Monday that it received a $1.25 million gift to support its operations from the Dee J. Kelly Foundation.

The gift from the foundation—named for Dee Kelly, Sr., JD '54, who was a prominent Texas lawyer, power broker and behind-the-scenes figure in Texas politics—will create the Dee J. Kelly Foundation Fund. In recognition of its generosity, the university will rename the Law School Learning Center (LLC) the Dee J. Kelly Law Learning Center. Mr. Kelly's three children—Cindy Kelly Barnes, Dee J. Kelly, Jr., and Craig L. Kelly—are in charge of the foundation. 

"All of us at George Washington are deeply grateful to the Dee J. Kelly Foundation for this generous gift, which will benefit the faculty and students of GW Law for generations to come," said GW President Steven Knapp. "Naming the Law Learning Center in Dee Kelly's honor creates a living legacy for a great man who was also one of our most distinguished alumni."

Dean Blake D. Morant applauded everyone involved with bringing the gift to fruition, stating "Thanks to the concerted efforts of many in the GW Law community, we have successfully partnered with the Kelly family to preserve Dee's indelible legacy, which will be an inspiration for future generations of GW Law students. This generous gift  will enable us to make state-of-the-art enhancements at the Law Learning Center and will help keep us at the vanguard of legal education."

"Naming the LLC is a way to honor the life of my dad and the experience he had at GW Law. This will keep his name connected to the law school for a long time and that's what he would have wanted. He loved GW Law and Washington, D.C.," said Dee Kelly, Jr. "I hope his career is motivational to students. My dad started with nothing and his successful career was based on the education he received at the law school."

Ms. Kelly Barnes added that her father would have "loved the vibrancy and energy of the LLC as a student." Today, GW Law students use its resources and space for studying, legal research and moot court competitions.

"Dee Kelly left an indelible mark on his native Texas," said Susan Karamanian, Burnett Family Professorial Lecturer in International and Comparative Law and Policy and associate dean for international and comparative legal studies. "After graduating from GW Law, he arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, with little in his pockets and went on to establish one of the state's most influential law firms, Kelly Hart & Hallman. Dee and the firm have helped shape modern Fort Worth, in particular, through their work on nearly every high-profile legal matter in the North Texas region. Also, Dee was relentless in dedicating time and energy to a variety of nonprofit institutions in Fort Worth and throughout Texas.

"An outstanding courtroom advocate, Dee is perhaps best remembered as a trusted counselor and confidant to civic and political leaders," Ms. Karamanian added. "A protégé of former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, he used his ability to relate to all kinds of people and his keen listening skills to resolve differences. He simply thrived on working with others. For Dee, a life well-lived was one devoted to family and friends and dedicated to respecting others while in service to his community."

Mr. Kelly also was a friend and supporter of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and was well acquainted with all the governors of Texas, from John Connally to Greg Abbott. Mr. Kelly was often a guest at the White House and the Governor's Mansion in Austin.

Born March 7, 1929, in Bonham, Texas, Mr. Kelly grew up as an only child. His father sold insurance and his mother worked in a cotton mill. A child of the Depression, Mr. Kelly believed in effort and persistence above all else, and his work ethic became legendary. While working for Speaker Rayburn, Mr. Kelly pursued his passion for both the law and for politics—forces that would shape his professional life. He met his future wife, Janice LeBlanc, while working in the speaker's office. After graduating from Texas Christian University (TCU), he attended law school at GW and was later named a distinguished alumnus from both universities. For 32 years, he served on the board of TCU, where he was also a member of the Executive Committee. TCU later named its alumni center after Mr. Kelly.

The gift is one of the final contributions counted under the Making History campaign, which formally ended a year ahead of schedule on June 30 after surpassing its $1 billion goal.

More than 66,000 donors—including Mr. Kelly, 41,000 other alumni and more than 1,000 seniors in the class of 2017—propelled the university's largest-ever fundraising initiative. The outcomes of donor contributions to support students, enhance academics and break new ground at the university are highlighted on

This story also appeared in GW Today on July 17, 2017.