Have a Question? Ask a Librarian

DU College of Law (1938-1941)

Howard Jenkins, Jr’s decision to attend the University of Denver College of Law in Denver, Colorado, was a practical one. His mother and father lived in Denver, and he needed to finance his own way through school. The Post Office was hiring clerks. He was hired as a substitute clerk. After a few months the job became permanent, and he told the postmaster he needed to take split shifts so work would not interfere with studying.

At the time, the law school was located at 211 15th Street, over Mapelli’s Meat Market. There was no air conditioning so it was always a question of keeping the windows closed and suffering from the heat or keeping the windows open and suffering from the odors of the meat market.

Jenkins remembers two professors in particular, Thompson Marsh and Gordon Johnston as being outstanding educators.

Gordon Johnston taught torts. He was really an actor and had great skill with language and presentation. Gordon could draw the students into a discussion and still keep the discussion focused.

Thompson Marsh was more concerned about his students’ thought processes. He insisted on reasoning “explain what you mean,” “well, why?” Marsh was known for his practice of tearing up books. He said “Just tear the pages out, and then carry it with you. When you are on the street car or bus, pull it out of your pocket and read. These books aren’t to be treasured. They are to be used. They are to be learned from and you are not being disrespectful of the book when you tear it up. It’s when you tear it out you use it to the fullest.”

When graduation finally arrived Jenkins and his classmates rented a mountain cabin and persuaded Professor Gordon Johnston to spend ten days there cramming them with the legal knowledge necessary to pass the Colorado Bar Exam. They all passed the first time and Jenkins became the first African American to pass the Colorado Bar Exam.

Thompson Marsh and Howard Jenkins, Jr.
Thompson Marsh and Howard Jenkins, Jr., a dinner celebrating Marsh’s fifty years of teaching at the DU College of Law.