Donors fund new SMU legal center for victims of crimes against women

A gift from Ray and Nancy Hunt will create a new center to help victims of domestic violence.

Ray and Nancy Hunt

DALLAS (SMU) – A new legal center at SMU’s Dedman School of Law will provide services for the victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and other crimes against women.

Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt have committed $5 million to provide a new resource for legal assistance to the community and opportunities for law students to gain practical experience. The gift will create the JUDGE ELMO B. HUNTER LEGAL CENTER for Victims of Crimes Against Women, named in honor of Mrs. Hunt’s father. The late Judge Hunter was a distinguished Missouri state and federal judge and longtime advocate of merit as the determining factor in the selection of judges.

“Ray and Nancy Ann have recognized the great need for free legal assistance to some of our community’s most vulnerable members,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As is typical of the Hunts, they have acted with generosity and insight to fill the need, while also expanding educational opportunities for law students to make a difference in this important area of the law. We are grateful for the generosity of Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt, who carry on a tradition of thoughtful giving to SMU and numerous other institutions.”

Under the supervision of law faculty, Dedman Law students working in the Hunter Legal Center will provide legal services such as protective orders; divorce, custody and child support agreements; as well as assistance with credit and housing issues. Using a holistic approach, students will gain experience with the myriad needs and complexity of issues that victims encounter and will see the human faces behind related legal issues.

Ray and Nancy Hunt
Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt

“We are honored to name this Legal Center after my father, whose main interest as a judge was the well-being of individuals through fair treatment and protection under the law,” said Nancy Ann Hunt. “As a result of this program, participating law students will enter the legal profession with a deeper understanding of the victims of exploitation, trafficking and abuse and what they need for their lives to be restored. Their suffering may be hidden from our sight and may be uncomfortable to acknowledge publicly. But through the availability of free legal services, we hope they will feel empowered to come forward and obtain help.”

Estimates are that more than 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence each year. It also is believed that incidents are under-reported by victims out of fear or concern that there will be no remedies for their plight.

With regard to trafficking in the sex industry, estimates are that more than 300,000 individuals, including children, are trafficked in the United States each year. The average age for entering the sex industry is 13.

The Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women will expand the Law School’s programs providing legal assistance to members of the community in several areas of the law. Existing programs include the W.W. Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic and clinics in civil law, criminal justice, federal taxpayer representation, small business issues and consumer advocacy. Dedman Law was one of the first in the country to provide such services to the community, dating to 1947. Dedman Law also was among the first law schools to implement a public service requirement for graduation.

“Dedman Law’s clinical education program is central to our mission of providing outstanding legal education and public service, along with developing professional responsibility,” said Julie Forrester, interim dean of the Dedman School of Law. “The clinics are among the programs that keep Dedman Law in the forefront of legal education, which must evolve to meet emerging needs. The Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women underscores our commitment to equip our law students not only to practice law, but also to become community leaders well-informed about societal issues.”

The Hunter Legal Center also will develop new partnerships with community organizations like Genesis Women’s Shelter, which aids victims of domestic violence, and New Friends New Life, which helps victims of sex trafficking start new lives. “These organizations can help ensure that we are reaching those with the greatest need and that we understand the legal issues associated with those needs,” Forrester added.

Caren Prothro, chair of SMU’s Board of Trustees, says the new Hunter Legal Center is another example of SMU’s commitment to make an impact on the community through education and service. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I thank Nancy Ann and Ray for this critically important initiative,” she said. “Their civic and charitable contributions are literally too numerous to name, but education and humanitarian needs are the chief focus of their service and support. Through their leadership, Nancy Ann and Ray live out the values of Judge Elmo B. Hunter in caring greatly about the welfare of individuals, and turning that concern into action.”

The Hunts’ gift also is the most recent example of their generous support of SMU. Among their many contributions is providing scholarships under the Hunt Leadership Scholars Program, which supports students who have a record of leadership in their high schools and communities and an ongoing commitment to service at SMU and beyond. Other gifts have supported academic programs, athletics and campus enhancements.

This latest gift counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised more than $844 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

About Judge Elmo B. Hunter

The namesake of SMU’s new Legal Center was a distinguished judicial leader and public servant who served as a judge in Western Missouri for 38 years.

Elmo Hunt
Elmo Bolton Hunter

The Honorable Elmo Bolton Hunter was born October 23, 1915, in New Madrid, Missouri, and grew up in Jefferson City. He enrolled at the University of Missouri at Columbia at 16 and graduated in 1936 with an A.B. at the top of his class. He earned an LL.B degree in 1936 from the University of Missouri Law School, where he was ranked number one in his class. He went on to earn his LL.M. degree in 1941 from the University of Michigan Law School, again graduating at the top of his class.

On the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, Hunter enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served in U.S. Army Intelligence throughout World War II. Returning to Kansas City, he worked for the Honorable Kimbrough Stone of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He left to serve as Senior Assistant City Counsel, City of Kansas City, Missouri, after which he worked as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to prosecute war fraud cases.

He subsequently became one of four founding partners of the renowned law firm Sebree, Shook, Hardy and Hunter, known today as Shook, Hardy and Bacon. He left a thriving law practice to serve 14 years as a State District Judge in Missouri and later as Presiding Judge for the Missouri Court of Appeals. He sat by Special Appointment on the Missouri Supreme Court.

In 1965 Judge Hunter was appointed to the Federal Bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson, becoming the youngest Federal Judge in the United States. He subsequently sat by Special Appointment on numerous United States District Courts and Court of Appeals panels throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

While serving as a Federal Judge, Hunter was appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger to the Judicial Conference of the United States. He chaired the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration. He also served on the U.S. Judicial Conference Subcommittee on Judicial Improvements and on the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Long Range Planning.

Judge Hunter was a member of the American Judicature Society and was the only member in its history to serve both as its Chairman and President. In 1991 the Elmo B. Hunter Citizens' Center for Judicial Selection was formed to further the American Judicature Society's historic interest in judicial selection issues. Throughout his career, he was a tireless advocate for judicial merit selection and public education concerning the U.S. Federal and State Judicial System of the United States.

Judge Hunter was an active member of numerous civic boards and committees throughout his life, including service as Police Commissioner on the Kansas City Police Board. In addition, he valued the importance of higher education and served as Trustee of the University of Missouri, and was a member and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the College of the Ozarks.

Judge Hunter’s achievements were recognized with numerous honors. In 1955 he received the Outstanding Alumni Service Award from the University of Missouri. In 1996 he received the Citation of Merit Award, the highest individual honor given by the University of Missouri School of Law.

In 2002 Judge Hunter received the American Judicature Society's Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his work promoting the effective administration of justice. For his extraordinary leadership in the Federal Judiciary, he received the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award.

He was married to Jane Ann Williams of Kansas City, Missouri, who died in 1949, and they had one daughter, Nancy Ann Hunter. He was married to Shirley Arnold Hunter for 51 years at the time of his death in 2003.

About Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt

Nancy Ann ’65 and Ray L. Hunt ’65 are longtime contributors to community organizations that empower individuals to transform their lives.

Nancy Ann Hunt taught in elementary school before focusing more fully on community service, devoted in particular to the well-being of women and children. Though she prefers working behind the scenes, numerous organizations have recognized her leadership with awards. Among them are the Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Beaver Award, Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award of the Methodist Health System Foundation, Women’s Center of Dallas Maura Award, and the Genesis Women’s Shelter Jane Doe Award. She is chair-elect of the board of New Friends New Life, which helps victims escape the sex industry and build new lives for themselves and their children. Among numerous activities for SMU, she serves on the executive board of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. 

Ray L. Hunt is chairman, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Mr. Hunt’s service to SMU has been multifaceted. He chaired the Board of Trustees after its restructuring in the late 1980s and now serves on the Board’s Trusteeship Committee and Executive Committee. Working with other SMU trustees and President Turner, he was instrumental in attracting the George W. Bush Presidential Center to SMU and serves on the Bush Foundation board. Elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1992, he received the first J. Erik Jonsson Award of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and was selected for the Linz Award, honoring humanitarian service. Mr. Hunt also received the Order of Marib Award from the Republic of Yemen, the only non-Yemeni to be so designated.

In 2013 Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt became the first couple to receive the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, and both have received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

About Dedman School of Law

The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates. Dedman Law was recently ranked #1 by The Dallas Morning News in a placement survey of Texas Law Schools. It ranked 20th nationally in The National Law Journal, among the 201 ABA-accredited law schools, for placement for long-term, full-time jobs requiring bar passage.

The faculty is comprised of highly talented, distinguished scholars and teachers who are leaders in their fields and have outstanding academic and scholastic credentials. Dedman Law students are immersed in an intense professional legal curriculum with opportunities to obtain real-world experience through extensive legal clinics, public service placements, academic externships and clerkships.  

In July 2014, the Dedman School of Law will welcome a new dean, Jennifer M. Collins, who comes to SMU from Wake Forest, where she currently serves as vice provost and professor of law.

Dedman Law graduates include CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Texas Supreme Court justices, federal court judges, members of Congress, ambassadors, foreign ministers and justices on the highest courts worldwide, as well as partners at leading law firms and general counsels at major corporations. Dedman Law graduates practice law in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and on all seven continents.

As SMU enters its second century of achievement, the Dedman School of Law continues to be dedicated to the ideals that shaped it from its founding: outstanding legal education, public service, and professional responsibility.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

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