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William D. Underwood is the eighteenth president of Mercer University, an independent, Baptist, coeducational, private university, located in the U.S. state of Georgia with major campuses in Macon, Atlanta, and Savannah. Underwood became president on July 1, 2006 succeeding Raleigh Kirby Godsey. Underwood, a successful attorney, also holds a faculty appointment in Mercer's Walter F. George School of Law.


Prior to joining Mercer, Underwood served as interim president of Baylor University in the U.S. state of Texas. Underwood also held the Leon Jaworski Chair at Baylor Law School. Underwood joined the Baylor law faculty in 1990 after practicing with a large firm in Dallas, Texas and served as Baylor General Counsel from 1997 to 1998 while on a leave of absence from his faculty duties.

Underwood was designated a Master Teacher at Baylor in recognition of classroom teaching and was named an Outstanding University Professor in 2005. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation and has published extensively on a range of topics and has presented a number of papers on how faith relates to higher education, especially at universities that share the historical and theological commitment of Baptists to intellectual and religious freedom and respect for religious diversity.

Education and Family

Underwood is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, which awarded him the juris doctor degree. He graduated as class salutatorian and was an editor of the University of Illinois Law Review. Following graduation, he clerked for the Honorable Sam D. Johnson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Underwood also holds a degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, where he met his spouse, Lesli. They have two children, Jessica and William. Underwood also has a younger brother, Jim, who has four sons, Tanner, Tyler, David, and Travis, and three younger sisters, Becky, Debbie, and Mary.

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