Emory Law Journal

The Randolph W. Thrower Symposium: A Lasting Legacy of Margaret and Randolph Thrower
Patricia T. Barmeyer,
Wilson G. Barmeyer Patricia Thrower Barmeyer is a partner in King & Spalding’s Atlanta office and the head of the firm’s environmental practice.Wilson G. Barmeyer is an associate in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan’s Washington, D.C. office, where he defends class action lawsuits and other complex business litigation matters.

Randolph W. Thrower—our father and grandfather—was remarkable in many ways: an exceptional attorney; a civic and political leader; a courageous public servant; a zealous advocate for the rights of women, minorities, and the poor; and mentor to generations of young lawyers. But although the Thrower Symposium bears Randolph’s name, the genesis of the symposium came not from Randolph, but rather from his wife, Margaret Munroe Thrower. Margaret and Randolph were married for seventy years, and she was a partner in every phase of his life. She attended bar meetings, hosted firm functions, and even sometimes attended court when he was trying a case or presenting oral argument. The symposium is a legacy not only of Randolph’s remarkable legal career, but also of Margaret’s role in his life and accomplishments.

In 1980, Thomas D. Morgan, then Dean of the Emory University School of Law, approached Margaret with a request that she make a donation to the law school in honor of Randolph. Dean Morgan suggested a contribution for the purchase of additional books for the library. Margaret’s reaction was, “I think we can do better than that!” She conferred with the five Thrower children and Dean Morgan, and slowly a concept emerged under her leadership. She was interested in honoring Randolph, but she envisioned a gift that would have an impact on the educational experience of students at the law school. And so, with a gift from Margaret and modest additional contributions from each of the five children, the law school established an annual lectureship series that was originally titled the Thrower Lecture.

Randolph was completely surprised—and very pleased—and from the outset he played a key role in the design and planning for the annual event. He personally helped select and then invite many of the speakers. The inaugural Thrower Lecture was given on April 14, 1982 by Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, who also spent two days on campus in multiple sessions with students and faculty. His lecture was a scholarly paper, which Judge Friendly read verbatim, giving a nod to the fact of a live audience only by skipping the footnotes. One of the Thrower children, then in graduate school and studying two foreign languages, listened attentively but noted afterward that she had not yet mastered that language. Judge Friendly’s article, Indiscretion About Discretion, 31 Emory L.J. 747 (1982), was an outstanding piece of scholarship; it has been cited in more than 120 cases, including in five U.S. Supreme Court opinions. And so the Thrower Lecture was off to a strong start.

There were other outstanding Thrower lectures in the early years, but the program truly took wings when, in 1995, the Emory Law Journal accepted responsibility for planning and executing the event. The Emory students transformed the single lecturer format into a symposium and grew the program into a prestigious event far more ambitious in scope than what had been originally conceived by Margaret and Randolph. Since 1995, the Journal staff has produced one outstanding Thrower Symposium after another, with enthusiastic participation from the Emory faculty, student body and alumni as well as other Atlanta lawyers and judges. Margaret and Randolph continued to participate well into their nineties, and their appreciation for the Symposium was not abstract. They both continued to serve on the steering committee and attended virtually every annual lecture and symposium. Margaret and Randolph and the entire Thrower family were and are proud to have played a role in the Thrower Symposium and what it has become, thanks to the hard work of the Emory students and faculty and the support of Dean Schapiro and his predecessors.

Footnotes

Patricia Thrower Barmeyer is a partner in King & Spalding’s Atlanta office and the head of the firm’s environmental practice.Wilson G. Barmeyer is an associate in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan’s Washington, D.C. office, where he defends class action lawsuits and other complex business litigation matters.