While the late Dee J. Kelly was attending George Washington University Law School in the nation’s capital in the 1950s, he was a heartbeat away from the most powerful people in the country.
Kelly clearly was at home there, but his mentor, U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, persuaded Kelly to return to Fort Worth instead. Eventually, he built one of the largest and most influential law firms in town. Still, the lessons learned in law school were never far away for Kelly.
So it came as no surprise when George Washington University announced Monday that the Dee J. Kelly Foundation is giving the school $1.25 million and that the university will rename its Law School Learning Center after him. The contribution was made as part of the university’s $1 billion fundraising campaign.
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George Washington University President Steven Knapp said the generous gift will benefit the law school’s faculty and students for generations to come while creating a “living legacy for a great man who was also one of our most distinguished alumni.”
Dee Kelly Jr., a partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman, the law firm his father helped build, said his father’s “successful career was based on the education he received at the law school,” where he graduated in 1954.
“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.,” his son said in a prepared statement.
Kelly became known as a power broker and kingmaker in Fort Worth before his death in 2015. Born during the Depression in the small town of Bonham, Kelly eventually built a client roster that included the Bass family and the Moncriefs, John Justin and American Airlines.
Before attending law school, Kelly graduated from Texas Christian University, where he was named a distinguished alumni and served on its board for 32 years. TCU later named its alumni center after Kelly.
The law library at the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth also is named after him.