The Dee J. Kelly Foundation, which is named for Dee Kelly Sr., J.D. a graduate of Texas Christian University and George Washington University Law School, has given GW Law a $1.25 million gift. The gift will create the Dee J. Kelly Foundation Fund and the university will rename the Law School Learning Center (LLC) the Dee J. Kelly Law Learning Center.
“All of us at George Washington are deeply grateful to the Dee J. Kelly Foundation for this generous gift, which will benefit the faculty and students of GW Law for generations to come,” said GW President Steven Knapp in a news release. “Naming the Law Learning Center in Dee Kelly’s honor creates a living legacy for a great man who was also one of our most distinguished alumni.”
Kelly’s children, Cindy Kelly Barnes, Dee J. Kelly Jr. and Craig L. Kelly, will be in charge of the foundation.
“Naming the LLC is a way to honor the life of my dad and the experience he had at GW Law,” said Dee Kelly Jr. in a news release. “This will keep his name connected to the law school for a long time and that’s what he would have wanted. He loved GW Law and Washington D.C.
“I hope his career is motivational to students. My dad started with nothing and his successful career was based on the education he received at the law school.”
Cindy Barnes added that her father would have “loved the vibrancy and energy of the LLC as a student.” Today, GW Law students use the learning center’s resources and space for studying, legal research and moot court competitions.
The gift from the Dee J. Kelly Foundation is one of the final contributions for the school’s Making History campaign. The school’s news release said that the campaign formally ended on June 30 after going over its $1 billion goal, a year ahead of schedule.
Susan Karamanian, the Burnett Family Professorial Lecturer in International and Comparative Law and Policy and associate dean for international and comparative legal studies, said in a news release that Kelly arrived in Fort Worth after graduating from Washington, D.C.-based GW Law with “little in his pockets and went on to establish one of the state’s most influential law firms, Kelly Hart & Hallman.”
Karamanian said that Kelly shaped modern Fort Worth and dedicated time and energy to nonprofits in Fort Worth and Texas.
“An outstanding courtroom advocate, Dee is perhaps best remembered as a trusted counselor and confidant to civic and political leaders,” said Karamanian in a news release. “A protégé of former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, he used his ability to relate to all kinds of people and his keen listening skills to resolve differences. He simply thrived on working with others.”
The news release said that Kelly was also a supporter and friend to former presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush and was often a guest at the White House. Kelly was also often at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin and the news release said he was “well acquainted with all the governors of Texas, from John Connally to Greg Abbott.”
Karamanian said that “for Dee, a life well-lived was one devoted to family and friends and dedicated to respecting others while in service to his community.”
Born March 7, 1929, in Bonham, Kelly grew up as an only child. While working for Speaker Rayburn, Kelly pursued his passion for both the law and for politics. He met his future wife, Janice LeBlanc, while working in the speaker’s office. After graduating from TCU, he attended law school at GW and was later named a distinguished alumnus from both universities. For 32 years, he served on the board of TCU, where he was also a member of the Executive Committee. TCU later named its alumni center after Kelly. He died in Fort Worth on Oct. 2, 2015, at age 86. Kelly’s clients included Fort Worth’s Bass and Moncrief families, Anne Marion, the late John Justin and AMR Corp, the former parent company of American Airlines.