92-Year-Old Retired Greensboro Executive Awarded UGA Law Degree


Friday, December 8, 2000

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172

CONTACT: Dean David Shipley, (706) 542-7140

92-Year-Old Retired Greensboro Executive Awarded UGA Law Degree

ATHENS, Ga. - 92-year-old Stephen Lumpkin Upson of Greensboro, North Carolina - who attended law school at the University of Georgia 70 years ago and is a direct descendant of the law school's founder - finally has a diploma from the institution to hang on his wall. Upson received his juris doctor (J.D.) degree from the institution at a luncheon ceremony at the Greensboro Country Club on Friday, December 1. The event was attended by family and friends, including many prominent business executives and dignitaries from the Greensboro area.

"Indeed, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this," Upson said upon receiving his framed diploma from UGA School of Law Dean David Shipley. "It's a great honor to be here and I know my great-great-grandfather, if he could see it, and I expect he can, would be proud, too."

Upson further stated: "I feel highly complimented over the award of this degree because it gives me greater confidence in the important 1930 decision I made to try to carry on in my own profession the traditions established by my ancestors: my great-great-grandfather, Joseph Henry Lumpkin, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia and the founder of the Lumpkin Law School; my great-grandfather, Stephen Upson, who was a prominent lawyer and statesman of the pre-Civil War days; and my own father, Stephen C. Upson, who was noted as a practicing lawyer, professor in the law school and finally, as a judge of the Clarke County Superior Circuit Court (Athens, Ga.) at the time of his death in 1941."

Upson was a summa cum laude valedictorian of his 1929 AB graduating class at UGA, and in 1930 received a master's degree in English literature while serving as an assistant professor of English. During his 1925-1930 UGA college years, he also completed 19 law courses, two-thirds of the law school graduation requirements. His father, a member of the UGA law faculty in the 1920s, left to start the Southern Law School in Athens. Upson, in part-time study, completed the remaining courses and received the LL.B. degree from that school in 1930, then was admitted to the Georgia Bar. In 1932, he also earned the MBA degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

Upson went on to lead a distinguished career as an attorney and corporate business and finance executive. He began work in Washington, D.C. in the middle of the Great Depression as counsel for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, then served six years with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Upson joined Burlington Industries' legal department in 1939 and was named assistant secretary of the company in 1941. He became secretary of the company in 1947 and general counsel

in 1952. Upson was elected to the board of directors in 1955, was named corporate executive vice president in 1960 and vice chairman of the board of directors in 1961. He retired from Burlington in 1970 and now resides in Greensboro and Wrightsville Beach-Wilmington, North Carolina.

Despite Upson's impressive career achievements, one regret was that he never held a diploma from the University of Georgia School of Law. Part of his academic record was destroyed in two fires in the UGA registrar's office in the 1950s so his academic record could not be verified. However, this fall, a UGA law school staff member contacted the North Carolina bar; there, along with his bar application, were his complete transcripts. With hard evidence in hand, the UGA law faculty voted unanimously in October to confer Upson's degree.

"We customarily award degrees and can only speculate about the futures of our graduates; in this case, we have some answers," said David Shipley, dean of the UGA School of Law. "Mr. Upson applied the education he obtained at the University of Georgia in a truly remarkable fashion over the course of his professional career. The law school now routinely grants degrees to students who complete their final year of work at another institution, and I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to present Mr. Upson's juris doctor diploma to him personally. Frankly, it was 70 years overdue."