A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Robert Edward Royall Huntley Jr. graduated from Washington and Lee (1950) and its law school (1957). He obtained a master's degree in law from Harvard University (1962). Huntley joined the W&L law faculty in 1958 and was named dean in 1967.
After only a year in that post, he accepted the position of president of W&L in 1968, the only law dean to become head of this university. He served in that capacity for 15 years which were marked by genuine leadership in times of financial peril and social upheaval.
His return to the law school at the end of his presidency was even more brief than his deanship. After one semester, he took an executive position with Best Products, Inc. He practiced law with the firm of Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Virginia before returning to Lexington in retirement. In 1982 the endowed Robert E. R. Huntley Professorship in Law was established by the W&L trustees to honor Huntley's service to the university.
W&L Honors Former President Huntley at Homecoming Festivities
Building Housing the Williams School Named Huntley Hall
Lexington, VA • Oct. 5, 2004 — The building housing Washington and Lee University's Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics was named Huntley Hall in honor of former W&L President Robert E. R. Huntley on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Huntley, who earned both a B.A. in English and a J.D. summa cum laude from W&L and its School of Law, returned to Lexington after retiring in 1995 from the Richmond law office of Hunton & Williams.
Huntley was welcomed at Saturday's ceremony in front of the Williams School by W&L President Thomas G. Burish, Williams School Dean Larry Peppers and W&L Trustee Waller Dudley, a longtime friend of Huntley and his wife, Evelyn, and their three grown children. The Homecoming event included remarks by Huntley and the unveiling of his name on the building, where Huntley's official portrait also will now hang.
Dating to 1900, the red brick, white-columned structure served as the McCormick Library until the late 1970s, when Leyburn Library opened as the University's principal depository for books, periodicals and other collections for the undergraduate college, as well as the depository for the University's archives and historic collections.
The building - whose renovations were overseen during Huntley's presidency - became home to the School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, which adopted the Williams School name in 1995 in recognition of Ernest Williams II, a 1938 alumnus and major supporter of the school's academic programs.
W&L's Board of Trustees recently approved naming the building Huntley Hall in honor of the University's 20th president. During his 15 years at W&L's helm, Huntley distinguished himself as a president of vision and humor, a strong supporter of academic program enhancements and an outstanding administrator and businessman.
From 1968-83, Huntley also played pivotal roles in fundraising and began a major physical plant improvement and expansion plan that included construction of Sydney Lewis Hall, home to W&L's School of Law; the Warner Center athletic facility; and the renovations and construction of several dormitories.
Huntley, who holds an L.L.M. from Harvard University, rose through W&L's faculty ranks to become a full professor at W&L's School of Law, where he taught hundreds of students from 1958 to 1968. He was named dean of the law school in 1967, a position he held for a year before being named president of the University in 1968.
Having previously served as secretary of the Board of Trustees, Huntley was well versed in the administration of the University. His experience on the faculty and as dean brought him wide respect from W&L's academic departments and schools.
Undergraduate and law students also praised Huntley, who, during his student days, was vice president of the Student Body, editor of the Washington and Lee Law Review and recipient of the Washington Literary Society Award for his "most distinguished service" to W&L of any graduating student.
In the 1970s-80s, Huntley served on numerous corporate boards, including those for Centel Corporation, Piedmont Airlines and the National Retail Merchants Association. He also was a member and served as chairman on the governing board of Union Theological Seminary; a member of the Virginia State Board of Education; a member and treasurer of the Virginia Historical Society; and a member of several gubernatorial task forces.
He currently serves on the board of The Altria Group, Inc., formerly the Philip Morris Companies.
Upon his retirement from W&L, Huntley became president and chief operating officer at Best Products Company, Inc. in Richmond, later serving as its chairman of the board and chief executive officer.
Prior to joining W&L's faculty, Huntley practiced law in Alexandria, Va. He was in the U.S. Navy from 1950-1953, during which time he studied electronics, trained at the U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Candidate School and served as an ensign and lieutenant aboard a destroyer in the Atlantic.
Huntley's granddaughter, Huntley Rodes, of Nashville, Tenn., is a sophomore at W&L and a member of the women's soccer team.