This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Winter 2022–2023 (Vol. 91, No. 4), pp. 37–38.

Portrait Photo of Robert L. PottsRobert L. Potts, former chair of NCBE’s Board of Trustees (1994–1995) and former chair of the Alabama Board of Bar Examiners, passed away on October 28, 2022. Gregory G. Murphy, NCBE Board of Trustees chair from 2000 to 2001, and former longtime chair of the Montana Board of Bar Examiners, offers the following tribute to Robert.By Gregory G.  MurphyOn October 28 NCBE lost a great friend and one of its most important champions, Robert Potts—a loss shared by Robert’s home state of Alabama and the higher education institutions he served, both of which lost a true professional and a terrific human being.

Born and raised in North Alabama, Robert’s formal studies took him from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee; to Newbold College outside of London, England; to the University of Alabama School of Law for his JD; and on to Harvard University for his LLM. He then returned to Florence, Alabama, to join his father in private practice at Potts and Young. But Robert enjoyed public policy, and a few years later took a run at Congress before eventually becoming general counsel to the University of Alabama System, where his career in higher education took off. He became president of the University of North Alabama, then chancellor of the North Dakota State Commission of Higher Education. He escaped the frozen North and returned to the South’s balmier climes to become president of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, and after his stint there, interim president of the Arkansas State University System.

Robert was elected to the NCBE Board of Trustees (then called the Board of Managers) in 1986 and served as its chair from 1994 to 1995. My wife, Kate, and I met Robert and his wife, Irene, in August 1990. Robert had met Irene while studying in London. I had just joined the NCBE Board, and we were having a meeting in Chicago, where NCBE was headquartered at the time. Robert and Irene took Kate and me under their collective wing, and we became good friends. Over the years, they hosted us in their homes in Florence, Alabama, and Bismarck, North Dakota, and provided the epitome of Southern hospitality.

Robert was blessed with an infectious smile, which readily came to his face. He was a remarkably likeable fellow and made friends easily. He conducted himself with such obvious intelligence, honor, and integrity that he became influential wherever he went.

Over the years, the NCBE Board has had many members who made truly significant contributions. Robert stands out among those who did so at a very important time in NCBE’s history. In NCBE’s modern era, two strategic moves stand out to me as significant and consequential: 1) the launching of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) in 1972 under the leadership of Joe Covington, NCBE’s first Director of Testing, and John Germany, NCBE Board chair from 1974 to 1976—both commonly known as the fathers of the MBE; and 2) the recruitment of Erica Moeser to the NCBE presidency in 1994 when Robert was chair of the Board. Robert had a keen eye for talent, and he employed that by recruiting Erica to apply for the position. The Board heartily concurred with Robert’s judgment.

Joe Covington and John Germany received much deserved recognition for the MBE; Robert’s contribution is not as widely known, but every bit as important. It also bears mentioning that as chair of the Board, Robert advocated for embarking on creation of the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)—an endeavor subjected to considerable study and debate. Under Robert’s leadership, the Board decided to move forward. The MPT launched in 1997 and came to be regarded by jurisdictions and applicants alike as a valuable part of the bar admissions test battery.

Robert’s obituary is beautifully written and captures Robert in a way I cannot. However, I will close by relating an example Robert set for me, by way of a story that was told for many years at NCBE gatherings. Kate and I were with Robert on an NCBE social outing as part of a Board meeting. The bus we were riding broke down. Robert was not one to sit idly. He was a doer. While the rest of us milled around awaiting rescue, Robert disappeared for some time. He returned just as we were about to board a new bus, with a package under his arm. What was in the package? A freshly caught fish. Robert had, as we soon learned, walked to a shack some distance away, seeking to help a local fellow make a buck, and bought the fish from him.

Our hearts go out to Irene and all of Robert’s family as they mourn his passing. Robert lived life to the fullest. He worked hard and loved fervently. He left this world a far better place for his having passed through it and will be greatly missed by all he touched along the way.

For Robert Potts’s obituary, please visit

Portrait Photo of Gregory G. MurphyGregory G. Murphy, former longtime chair of the Montana Board of Bar Examiners, chaired the NCBE Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2001. He was elected to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in 2010, serving as its chair from 2016 to 2017, and also served upon and as chair of the Section’s Accreditation Committee.

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