In Memoriam: Marjorie Fine Knowles, 1939-2021

Majorie Fine Knowles, the first woman to serve as dean of the School of Law at Georgia State University, died late last month in her sleep at her home in Atlanta. She was 82 years old.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Professor Knowles earned a bachelor’s degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She earned a juris doctorate at Harvard Law School in 1965.

Following graduation, Knowles clerked for a U.S. district judge, then served as an assistant U.S. attorney and as an assistant district attorney. She joined the faculty of the University of Alabama School of Law in 1972. She was the first woman to serve on the faculty at the law school. At the University of Alabama, Professor Knowles helped increase enrollment of women law students from 13 to more than 70 in just three years. She also created the university’s academic major in women’s studies.

In 1978, Professor Knowles moved to Washington to join the Carter Administration as an assistant general counsel in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Later, she was appointed the first Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor. She returned to the University of Alabama in 1980.

Professor Knowles became dean of the College of Law at Georgia State University in 1986, making her the 17th woman in U.S. history – and the first woman in Georgia – to serve as dean of a law school. She stepped down as dean in 1991 but continued being a pioneer in legal academia and remained on the faculty teaching corporate law, corporate governance, and conflict of laws.

Professor Knowles retired from teaching in 2011.


Filed Under: In Memoriam


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