The Way Back: The Peregrinus

Peregrinus

The story of the peregrinus, the mascot and so-called patron saint of the Law School, stretches all the way back to the Roman Empire. Sort of.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Eldred James Simkins was teaching a class of new law students about the concept of equity in the Roman Empire. “Many of them had never heard of the Roman Empire, and not a few spelled cow with a ‘K,’” Simkins wrote. He labored to convey the idea of the praetor peregrinus, traveling judges who administered justice among citizens and foreigners throughout the empire.

“The boneheads of the class evidently thought that the peregrinus was an internal organ of the body,” Simkins decried, “for they continually greeted each other, ‘How is your peregrinus today?’”

Others say that Simkins startled a dozing student by asking what a peregrinus was, and the student hazily replied that it must be some kind of creature. Either way, law student Russell Savage, 1902, is credited with first drawing the mascot, a chimeric patchwork of animals and, oddly, clothing accessories, which are intended to symbolize the ideals and noble aims of the legal profession.

Today, the Law School carefully guards four surviving early sculptures of the creature, including perhaps the most complete version, a wood carving by Peter Mansbendel from the 1930s.

Photo courtesy UT Law School.

 

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