Member Highlight – Honorary: Guff Abbott
Guthrie “Guff” Abbott, Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, has been recently recognized by the Land Title Association of Mississippi as one of its first Honorary Members. Before embarking on his 50-year career with the School of Law faculty, Professor Abbott received a bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor degrees from Ole Miss and entered private practice with the firm of Eaton, Cottrell, Galloway & Lang in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1967. Ben Stone, who was practicing with the firm at the time, says, “When Guff joined our firm right out of law school, we knew that he had a special love for the law, and his work reflected that love. We were disappointed when he left to pursue a teaching position, but his great success seems to indicate that his decision was a good one.”
Although real estate law was not the main focus of his practice in Gulfport, Guff was assigned the Real Property course when he joined the law school faculty in 1970. He later added the Secured Real Estate Transactions and Land Development and Finance courses to his teaching and was named Acting Dean of the law school from 1985 to 1987. In 1975, he had the opportunity to further his own education as a Fellow in Law and Humanities at Harvard University. Professor Abbott’s influence on his students is evidenced by his having been elected by the student body as Outstanding Professor of Law in 1974, 1976, 1984, 1992, and 2000. In addition to his many other honors, he was the recipient of the University of Mississippi Outstanding Teacher Award in 1986 and the first recipient of the Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada Endowed Lectureship in Law in 1991.
Looking back on his work, Professor Abbott says, “I have received some nice awards and been allowed to serve in leadership roles, but the most satisfying part of my career has been to watch my young men and women students, many of whom are now good friends, mature into leaders in the law community, in the state and in the nation. I have been blessed to teach founders and leaders of major law firms, Mississippi Supreme Court Justices, trial court judges on the state and federal benches, governors, U.S. congressmen, a U.S. Senator, business executives, ministers, and many other vocations.” The appreciation between teacher and students is clearly mutual. According to former student Bryan Sawyers (Class of 2012), “Professor Abbott was one of the most practical professors I have ever had in any phase of education. What made him stand out was his ability to translate academic concepts into real-world application so that his students were as prepared as best they could be when they left his classroom to embark on their legal careers.”
Professor Abbott’s leadership in the legal community extended far beyond his law school teaching role. For 28 years, he joined with Professor Robert Weems to annually present the popular “Summary of Recent Mississippi Law” to practicing attorneys across the State of Mississippi for Continuing Legal Education. Guff is a past president of the Mississippi Bar Association, served as chair of the Mississippi Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Practice and Procedure, and served as chair of the Supreme Court Commission to redraft all Civil Model Jury Instructions in Plain Language. He served as chair of the Lamar Order, was a charter member of the American Inns of Court III, and is a Fellow of both the Mississippi Bar Foundation and the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Section.
Over the long span of his career, Professor Abbott has obviously seen many changes in the real estate practice. As a frame of reference, he notes that his law firm had just purchased a copy machine when he started work. At the time, he says it was customary for a closing fee to be 1% of the amount of the sale or loan, and lawyer advertising was prohibited. Guff laments, “I am reminded that the dignity of our profession has taken a hit every time I turn on the TV.” Fortunately, Professor Abbott’s legacy has served to elevate the profession and keep lawyers on their toes at every level. He was once asked if he was nervous to be attending a luncheon with the Mississippi Supreme Court Justices. He replied, “Not really. I taught seven of them. They are afraid that I may call on them to take the next case.”
Now that Professor Abbott has scaled back his work at the university, he has more time to spend with his wife, Patsy; children, Guff, Jr., Louis, and Linda; and their families. He enjoys the opportunity to read a lot, ride his mountain bike, and volunteer, especially for the Oxford Food Pantry. Guff remains an active leader in the Oxford community, serving as Ruling Elder of the First Presbyterian Church. Having visited 49 of the 50 states, a trip to Hawaii is at the top of his bucket list.
To learn more about Guff Abbott, view his member profile.