At the time Marcus Benton Calhoun entered law school, legal education still relied heavily on the memorization of the writings of significant legal scholars, Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) and his Commentaries on the Laws of England in particular. Marcus scored well on his exams demonstrating a good understanding of Blackstone and common law.
The exam questions also illustrate the emphasis on memorization in early legal education as the students were expected to give short, specific answers. In comparison, current law students are expected to analyze complex fact patterns and apply the law to those situations.
Blackstone's Commentaries, initially four volumes, is considered one of the most influential texts in the Anglo-American common law tradition. Some scholars suggest that had the Commentaries not been written when they were written, the United States and other English speaking countries would not have so universally adopted the common law.* Many American legal scholars, jurists, and politicians acknowledged the influence of the Commentaries, including John Marshall, James Wilson, John Jay, John Adams, James Kent and Abraham Lincoln.
* William Searle Holdsworth, Sir William Blackstone, 7 Or. L. Rev. 155, 157 (1928)
Marcus Benton Calhoun was born to Thomas Beckham Calhoun and Sarah Jane Conner Calhoun on May 9, 1877 in the Longpond section of Montgomery County, Georgia. Marcus spent his youth working on his father's farm until he graduated from high school at the age of eighteen. He then entered the South Georgia College at McRae, Georgia and upon graduation enrolled in the University of Georgia School of Law. Marcus graduated with a law degree in 1900. That same year he was appointed as official stenographic reporter of the Superior Court of the Oconee County Circuit. In January of 1904 he returned to Montgomery County and entered the practice of law, which he continued until his death.
On June 17, 1906 he married Marie Annette (Annie) Griffeth in Mt. Vernon, Georgia. Together they had five children. During his life Marcus served three terms in the state legislature and a term as State Senator from 1911-1912. He also served as Montgomery County's Commissioner, County Attorney, County Treasurer, and Chairman of the Red Cross. He was Mayor of Mt. Vernon, a deacon of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, a member of the Mt. Vernon town council, a member of the Board of Trustees and Treasurer of Brewton-Parker Institute, and was a director in and attorney for the Mt. Vernon bank.
By all accounts, Marcus was an honorable man rich in character and integrity. Despite his life in public service, he was a shy and retiring man. He was a faithful servant in his church and impressed all with his selfless loyalty. He was also greatly respected in his profession and held in the highest esteem by his colleagues. Marcus died on May 1, 1934 in Mt. Vernon, Georgia. He is buried next to his wife in Mt. Vernon City Cemetery.
Source: Compiled by Marcus B. Calhoun, Jr. and Linda Calhoun ReVeal
The Alexander Campbell King Law Library thanks Marcus B. Calhoun, Jr. of Columbus, Georgia for the gift of his grandfather's handwritten examinations. The Calhoun family has a long tradition with Georgia Law. Marcus Calhoun Jr. ('72), his brothers Sam ('74) and Bill ('77) are all graduates. Marcus Benton Calhoun's great-granddaughter Elizabeth Calhoun ('98) carried on the tradition.