Born in Canton Ohio, Philemon Bliss attended Hamilton College and studied law under his brother Albert before admission to the bar in 1840. Bliss practiced in Ohio before serving as presiding judge for the fourteenth circuit of Ohio from 1848 to 1851. In 1861 President Lincoln, appointed Bliss chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Dakota. Bliss then moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, and served as associate justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri from 1868-1872.
The University's Board of Curators voted to establish a law department in 1867 but struggled to find a reputable lawyer willing to give up a lucrative practice to steer the program. Bliss, a member of the University's Board of Curators since 1867, was asked to accept appointment as dean of the department upon retiring from the bench in 1872. Twenty-five students enrolled the first year at a tuition rate of $40, which was considerably less expensive than private law schools of the time. In 1889, Bliss died while visiting St. Paul, Minnesota, and still serving as the University's first Dean of Law.
Entry for Philemon Bliss in Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Fratcher, William F., The Law Barn: A Brief History of the School of Law, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1978.
Viles, Jonas, The University Of Missouri: A Centennial History, University of Missouri, 1939.
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Published by: University Archives muarchives.missouri.edu/
Revised: 10 July 2013