Passing of Emeritus Professor Richard Paul Thornell


Carolyn and Richard Paul Thornell Family Photo

Dear Howard University Community,

I regret to inform you of the recent passing of Richard Paul Thornell, Professor Emeritus who served as a faculty member in the Howard University School of Law from 1976 – 2005.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University, Professor Thornell became the second black graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he received his master's in public affairs before going on to earn a law degree from Yale University.

A respected educator, Professor Thornell taught thousands of students who later served in the judiciary, law enforcement, elected office, philanthropy and the corporate world. He also served as Howard University’s general counsel. In the 1990s, Professor Thornell helped launch the Howard University Republic of South Africa Partnership (HURSAP) with the newly established South African government. He traveled with other Howard University leaders to South Africa to provide counsel to President Nelson Mandela’s administration on the design of the country’s constitution.

Professor Thornell was widely revered by the Howard University community, including Howard University School of Law students and alumni. He returned to the Law School for the Howard University School of Law’s Fourth Annual Alumni Reunion in 2008 where he received an award in honor of his more than 20-year legacy.

Professor Thornell served as a board member of Fisk University; special counsel to the Washington bureau of the NAACP; vice chair and counsel of the board of directors of Africare; chair of the exchange programs committee of the International Division of the YMCA of the USA; and a member of the board of directors of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. He was also a charter member of the Beta Mu Boule of Sigma Pi Phi national professional fraternity.

The Howard University community will continue to keep the Thornell Family, including his wife, Carolyn Atkinson Thornell, and their sons, David, Paul and Douglass Thornell in our thoughts and prayers. Arrangements for a memorial service for Professor Thornell will be held later, when family and friends can safely gather to celebrate his life and legacy.

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Anthony K. Wutoh, Ph.D., R.Ph.

Provost and Chief Academic Officer

*Photo credit: Thornell family photo, featured in The Washington Post.