Bill Clinton accepts a teaching position at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Bill taught constitutional law, criminal procedure, and admiralty law for $14,709 a year.
After graduating Yale Law School in 1973, Bill intended to establish a small-town law practice in Arkansas. One of his professors, though, told him about two openings at the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. On his drive home from Hot Springs he stopped at a telephone booth and called Dean Wylie Davis to inquire about the job. “I don’t have anything set to do” he told Davis, “but I’m coming home to Arkansas, and you might want me to come teach up there a year because I’ll teach anything, and I don’t mind working, and I don’t believe in tenure for myself, so you can get rid of me anytime you want.”
With that exchange, Bill was offered an appointment to teach classes in constitutional law, criminal procedure, and admiralty law for a meager $14,709 a year. Dean Wylie Davis said that he gave the job to Bill who had only taught law for a small bit in a New Haven community college, “because he thought he was a good risk to be a first class brilliant law teacher. Davis knew that Clinton had leadership potential and said that Clinton was, “A damned good teacher.”
One of his former students commented, Bill Clinton was my teacher in Criminal Procedure in the Spring of 1974 and he was a good professor. While his teaching tended to be sympathetic to some of the 1960’s Warren Court holdings on criminal procedure, he was very fair and very tolerant of more conservative views. He encouraged discussion, kept the class directed and while he digressed at times the discussion remained relevant. It was one of my favorite classes of my freshman year. My memory of Bill Clinton is that of a teacher who was comfortable in the classroom setting and enjoyed teaching. As a teacher Bill showed a great deal of compassion and understanding. He was never condescending and while showing displeasure he never humiliated any student for being unprepared as some professors did. At the time I certainly felt like that was a virtue. Bill, who was not a bad ball player, would play half court basketball with us occasionally at Barnhill Arena on the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Campus. He was always very friendly.
While teaching law Bill never lost sight of his goal to be more actively involved in public service.