Sealing the deal By Gabrielle Maxey
Robert Huff is used to giving his seal of approval. As a student at Lambuth College, Huff was president of Kappa Sigma fraternity. The new chapter house needed a large fraternity crest, which Huff created. He quickly realized what a huge potential market he had – a crest for every Kappa Sigma chapter in the country. A business was born.
FORTY YEARS LATER, Robert Huff Designs has created seals for state senators and representatives, judges and courtrooms in all 50
Robert Huff (left) illustrated his close ties to the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law by creating state and federal seals for the school’s historic courtroom as a gift to Dean Peter Letsou.
states, for movie sets and individuals. He even has made seals for foreign embassies and for the British Parliament. Huff produced the first U of M seal (for
Nev. All of my products are on display at the
Huff says. “As many as 10 movie sets have called
Judicial College.” Huff also attends international
and bought them for courtroom scenes.”
then-Memphis State) when he was still a student.
conventions for elected city, state and national
“Charles Holmes was the PR director at that
time,” he recalls. “It took a former student, lawyer
While the seals typically are 15 to 24 inches
Huff’s wife Brenda, a CPA, earned her BBA degree from the U of M. His stepson, David Ratton, graduated from the U of M’s Cecil C.
and state senator to get permission to sell them.”
in diameter, the company recently made and
Humphreys School of Law in 2012 and earned
Today he is still creating U of M seals, but he now
installed an eight-foot North Carolina seal in the
his MBA from the Fogelman College of Business
makes them as gifts to give to family and friends
state’s Senate chamber. Most of the seals are a
who have graduated from the University.
poured casting of polyurethane foam. The larger
The state and federal seals hanging in the Law
seals are custom cut from high-density urethane
School were gifts from Huff to Dean Peter Letsou.
“The addition of these beautiful, hand-made seals
In recent years, the fastest growing segment of Huff’s business has been personalizing state Senate and House of Representative seals. “All
“Thirty years ago I would hire the top
to our historic courtroom adds the final touch
politicians have an ego, and the personalized
student artist at the Memphis Academy of Art to
to what is already one of the most beautifully
seals fill that void,” he says. “They have so many
sculpt original seals before making a mold and
restored and historic rooms in our state,” Letsou
certificates on their walls that no one reads them,
pouring the castings,” Huff says. “The advent of a
says. “Mr. Huff was generous enough to offer
but they will notice the seal.”
computer-driven router has taken their job.” Today
his services free of charge as a gesture of how
he has three employees and the casting and
much he and his family care about Memphis Law.
painting are jobbed out.
Knowing that he has created seals like these for
How does he get the business? “By personally showing state seals to the county clerk or judge, our success rate is 95 percent,” Huff
Huff’s seals can even be spotted on the big
courtrooms across the region, I am immensely
says. “There is an extensive ‘grapevine’ in the
screen. Probably the most famous was for The
pleased and proud to have these works of art
judicial community. Judges attend conferences
Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford. “Not many people
displayed in our School.”
as well as the National Judicial College in Reno,
or companies make reproductions of state seals,”
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THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS
University of Memphis Fall Magazine