James Byron McCormick

Years: 1947-1951
Presidential Order: 13th President

J. Byron McCormick, who left his position as dean of the College of Law to become the 13th president of the University of Arizona, later admitted that he “reluctantly” accepted the position.

Born in Illinois on Feb.28, 1895, he earned a Bachelor of Laws in 1915 from Illinois Wesleyan University and practiced law in that state for nearly 10 years. He joined the UA College of Law in 1925, becoming its second dean in 1938. He received a Master of Laws from the University of Southern California in 1930, and a Doctor of Laws from Duke University in 1933.

As president, McCormick faced enrollment increases and inadequate facilities to handle the additional students. Servicemen flocked to the University after World War II and, desperate for classroom and office space, the administration accepted the government’s offer of surplus temporary dwelling units. Transported in sections from the Japanese Relocation Camp at Rivers, Ariz., they were reassembled west of Bear Down Gymnasium, and used as temporary space for classrooms, the Veteran’s Administration, the School of Pharmacy, the history and political science department, and various other campus units.

Before leaving office, McCormick established a committee on the future development of the University and, perhaps due to his logic and judgment, the state Legislature began to increase its appropriations. New buildings were started and improvements were made to old ones. McCormick took no credit for the shift in attitudes of the Board of Regents and the Legislature, attributing it to an expanding economy.

Milestones during his term include: the creation of the School of Pharmacy in 1947; the first faculty/staff retirement system; a regents-approved new faculty constitution authorizing a faculty chairman, a faculty senate with legislative powers, and a select investigative group called the Committee of Eleven –all selected by faculty vote. For the first time, the graduating class numbered 1,000 (the class of 1950) and, during his last year in office, construction began for a new Student Union.

After his resignation, McCormick returned to teaching law. From 1956 to 1970, he served as the adviser to the Board of Regents, succeeding former UA President Atkinson in this capacity. He died in Tucson in 1970.