Attorneys General of Virginia

The list of colonial attorneys general and their dates of service is incomplete because of the loss of records. Dates of service are often inexact for the same reason. During the colonial period the king usually appointed the attorney general, but the governor and Council or the governor (or lieutenant governor) alone usually made interim appointments when the office became vacant. There was no set term of office, and on several occasions there was not even an incumbent. Records are sparse for the period 1652–1660, during the Interregnum, when Virginia was virtually self-governing. For these years under the Commonwealth of England, there appears to have been no incumbent attorney general. Each entry includes life dates if known, place of residence when appointed or elected, if known, period of service, and after the American Revolution (1775–1783) political party affiliation when known. Between 1795 and the 1810s most are identified as Federalists or as Democratic-Republicans. Prior to 1795 and again from the 1810s into the 1830s there were no well-organized political parties or parties were in flux, and for those time periods no affiliation is listed. MORE...

 

Attorneys General under the Crown, 1624–1652 and 1660–1775

  • Richard Lee (1613–1664), from York County, appointed by Governor Sir William Berkeley and Council on October 12, 1643, length of service unknown.
  • Peter Jenings (1631–1671), from Gloucester County, already serving by June 25, 1670, reappointed by Charles II on September 15, 1670, probably served until October 12, 1670.
  • George Jordan (1617–1678), from James City County, appointed by Governor Sir William Berkeley and Council on October 12, 1670, served until after October 3, 1672.
  • Robert Beverley (d. 1687), from Middlesex County, appointed by Governor Sir William Berkeley and Council on March 10, 1676 to serve for "this present Court."
  • George Jordan (1617–1678), from James City County, acting as "Attorney General for the Time Present" on May 20, 1677.
  • William Sherwood (d. 1697), from James City County, already serving by early in March 1677 and still serving on November 25, 1678.
  • Edmund Jenings (1659–1727), from James City County, appointed in 1680, served until shortly before June 10, 1691.
  • George Brent (d. 1699), from Stafford County, acting as attorney general, probably during an absence of Edmund Jenings from before November 16, 1686 until sometime before May 1, 1688.
  • Edward Chilton (1658–died by July 26, 1707), from Jamestown, sworn into office October 20, 1691, served until April 1694.
  • William Randolph (ca. 1651–1711), from Henrico County, sworn into office in April 1694, served until October 29, 1698. Resigned.
  • Bartholomew Fowler (d. ca. 1703), from Henrico County, appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson on October 29, 1698, served until September 4, 1700. Resigned.
  • Benjamin Harrison (1673–1710), from Charles City County, appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson and Council on October 17, 1700, served until about 1702.
  • Stevens Thomson (1674–1714), from Williamsburg, appointment approved by Privy Council July 30, 1703, sworn into office March 2, 1704, served until February 1714. Died in office.
  • John Clayton (ca. 1666–1737), from James City County, appointed by Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood in 1714, given leave to go to England for one year on April 22, 1726, returned to Virginia late in 1727 or early 1728, reappointed by royal warrant after the proclamation of the accession of George II, February 29, 1728, served until November 18, 1737. Died in office.
  • Sir John Randolph (1693–1737), from Williamsburg, appointed by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch and Council on April 22, 1726 during absence of John Clayton, served until return of Clayton late in 1727 or early 1728.
  • Edward Barradall (1703–1743), from Williamsburg, appointed by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch between November 17 and 25, 1737, royal warrant issued March 7, 1738, sworn in October 26, 1738, served until June 19, 1743. Died in office.
  • Thomas Nelson (1716–1782), from Yorktown, apparently appointed acting attorney general by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch between June 19 and 27, 1743, served until summer 1744.
  • Peyton Randolph (1721 or 1722–1775), from Williamsburg, royal warrant issued May 7, 1744, sworn in midsummer 1744, served until departed Virginia without royal permission sometime shortly before January 29, 1754; Board of Trade declared office forfeit on June 20, 1754; royal warrant issued May 13, 1755, reinstated between January 20 and February 10, 1755, served until shortly after November 22, 1766. Resigned.
  • George Wythe (1726–1806), from Williamsburg, appointed acting attorney general by Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie on or shortly before January 29, 1754, served until sometime between January 20 and February 10, 1755; appointed acting attorney general by Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier sometime shortly after November 22, 1766, served until sometime between June 4 and 11, 1767.
  • John Randolph (1729–1784), from Williamsburg, sworn in under royal commission between June 4 and 11, 1767, fled Virginia early in September 1775.

Attorneys General under the Commonwealth, 1776–1857

Between 1776 and 1851, the General Assembly elected the attorney general, but the governors filled vacancies, and there was no set term of office. Beginning with the Constitution of 1851, the voters elect the attorneys general for four-year terms. Attorneys general are eligible for reelection. Should the office become vacant, the General Assembly, if in session, is empowered to elect an attorney general to serve until the next general election; otherwise, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until the next session of the General Assembly or the next general election, whichever occurs first. The only exception was in the period 1865–1870, during Reconstruction (1865–1877), when the commanding general of the military district of Virginia appointed and dismissed the attorney general.

Between 1934 and 1958 the terms of the commonwealth's executive officers expired the day prior to the inauguration of their successors; thus for a twenty-four-year period the dates of term expiration and initiation do not agree. Until the General Assembly in 1956 remedied the discrepancy, with the voters' later approval of a constitutional amendment to take effect in 1958, Virginia was without an executive administration for approximately half a day each inaugural year.

  • Edmund Randolph (1753–1813), from Williamsburg, elected by convention June 29, 1776, served from early July 1776 until November 30, 1786.
  • James Innes (1754–1798), from Williamsburg, elected by General Assembly, served November 30, 1786, until November 13, 1796. Resigned.
  • John Marshall (1755–1835), from Richmond, acting in absence of James Innes from mid-October 1794 until late March 1795.
  • Robert Brooke (ca. 1760–1800), from Spotsylvania County, elected by General Assembly, served mid-November 1796–February 27, 1800, Democratic-Republican. Died in office.
  • Philip Norborne Nicholas (ca. 1776–1849), from Richmond, appointed by Governor James Monroe March 15, 1800, elected by the General Assembly December 4, 1800, served until January 7, 1819, Democratic-Republican. Resigned.
  • John Robertson (1787–1873), from Richmond, elected by the General Assembly January 21, 1819, served until mid-October 1834. Resigned.
  • Sidney Smith Baxter (1802–1879), from Richmond, elected by the General Assembly December 11, 1834, served until January 1, 1852, Democrat.
  • Willis Perry Bocock (1807–1887), from Appomattox County, elected by the voters, served January 1, 1852–May 15, 1857, Democrat. Resigned.

Attorneys General during the Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Virginia had two state governments. The state officials in office at the time of Virginia's secession in 1861 continued to act in Richmond under the Constitution of 1851 and as one of the Confederate States of America. That government ceased to function in May 1865. The attorney general was John Randolph Tucker. The other, as one of the United States of America and known initially as the Restored government of Virginia, met first at Wheeling (until West Virginia became a state in 1863) and then at Alexandria, where a new constitution was written in 1864. The officials of that government moved to Richmond in June 1865 as the sole government of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The attorneys general were James S. Wheat and Thomas Russell Bowden.

  • John Randolph Tucker (1823–1897), from Winchester, served June 13, 1857–May 9, 1865, Democrat. Relinquished office when the state officers abandoned Richmond on April 2, 1865.
  • James S. Wheat (ca. 1813–before 1880), from Ohio County (now West Virginia), elected by the Wheeling Convention June 21, 1861, and by the people in May 1862, served until December 7, 1863.
  • Thomas Russell Bowden (1841–1893), from Williamsburg, elected by the people; served December 7, 1863–August 1, 1869, Unionist and Republican. Resigned.

Attorneys General under the Commonwealth, 1869–2010

  • Charles Whittlesey (ca. 1820–1874), from Alexandria, appointed by Brigadier General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby, served September 10, 1869–January 19, 1870, Republican. Removed from office by General Canby.
  • James Craig Taylor (1826–1887), from Montgomery County, appointed by Brigadier General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby January 19, 1870 and, having been elected by the voters, served until January 1, 1874, Conservative.
  • Raleigh Travers Daniel (1805–1877), from Richmond, January 1, 1874–August 16, 1877, Conservative. Died in office.
  • James Gavin Field (1826–1902), from Orange County, appointed by Governor James Lawson Kemper August 29, 1877, to fill an unexpired term, subsequently elected by the voters, and served until January 1, 1882, Conservative.
  • Francis Simpson Blair (1839–1899), from Wythe County, January 1, 1882–January 1, 1886, Readjuster.
  • Rufus Adolphus Ayers (1849–1926), from Wise County, January 1, 1886–January 1, 1890, Democrat.
  • Robert Taylor Scott (1834–1897), from Fauquier County, January 1, 1890–August 5, 1897, Democrat. Died in office.
  • Richard Carter Scott (d. 1928), from Richmond, appointed by Governor Charles T. O'Ferrall August 11, 1897, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 1, 1898, Democrat.
  • Andrew Jackson Montague (1862–1937), from Danville, January 1, 1898–January 1, 1902, Democrat. Became governor January 1, 1902.
  • William Alexander Anderson (1842–1930), from Rockbridge County, January 1, 1902–February 1, 1910, Democrat.
  • Samuel Walker Williams (1848–1920), from Wythe County, February 1, 1910–February 2, 1914, Democrat.
  • John Garland Pollard (1871–1937), from Henrico County, February 2, 1914–January 5, 1918, Democrat. Resigned. Became governor January 15, 1930.
  • Josiah Dickenson Hank Jr. (1875–1924), from Richmond, appointed by Governor Henry C. Stuart January 5, 1918, to fill an unexpired term and served until February 1, 1918, Democrat.
  • John Richard Saunders (1869–1934), from Middlesex County, February 1, 1918–March 17, 1934, Democrat. Died in office.
  • Abram Penn Staples (1885–1951), from Roanoke, appointed by Governor George C. Peery March 22, 1934, elected by the General Assembly January 10, 1936, to fill an unexpired term, subsequently elected by the voters to a term beginning January 19, 1938, and served until October 6, 1947, Democrat. Resigned.
  • Harvey Black Apperson (1890–1948), from Roanoke County, appointed by Governor William M. Tuck October 7, 1947, to fill an unexpired term and served until February 2, 1948, Democrat. Died in office.
  • James Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986), from Roanoke, appointed by the General Assembly February 11, 1948, to fill an unexpired term, subsequently elected by the voters to a term beginning January 18, 1950, and served until September 16, 1957, Democrat. Resigned. Became governor January 11, 1958.
  • Kenneth Cartright Patty (1891–1967), from Richmond, appointed by Governor Thomas B. Stanley September 16, 1957, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 13, 1958, Democrat.
  • Albertis Sydney Harrison Jr. (1907–1995), from Brunswick County, January 13, 1958–April 20, 1961, Democrat. Resigned. Became governor January 13, 1962.
  • Frederick Thomas Gray (1918–1992), from Chesterfield County, appointed by Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. May 1, 1961, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 13, 1962, Democrat.
  • Robert Young Button (1899–1977), from Culpeper County, January 13, 1962–January 17, 1970, Democrat.
  • Andrew Pickens Miller (1932– ), from Washington County, January 17, 1970–January 17, 1977, Democrat. Resigned.
  • Anthony Francis Troy (1941– ), from Chesterfield County, appointed by General Assembly, January 26, 1977, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 14, 1978, Democrat.
  • John Marshall Coleman (1942– ), from Staunton, January 14, 1978–January 16, 1982, Republican.
  • Gerald Lee Baliles (1940– ), from Richmond, January 16, 1982–June 30, 1985, Democrat. Resigned. Became governor 11 January 1986.
  • William Gray Broaddus (1942– ), from Henrico County, appointed by Governor Charles S. Robb, July 1, 1985, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 11, 1986, Democrat.
  • Mary Sue Terry (1947– ), from Patrick County, January 11, 1986–January 28, 1993, Democrat. Resigned.
  • Stephen Douglas Rosenthal (1949– ), from Lynchburg, elected by the General Assembly January 29, 1993, to fill an unexpired term and served until January 15, 1994, Democrat.
  • James Stuart Gilmore III (1949– ), from Henrico County, January 15, 1994–June 11, 1997, Republican. Resigned. Became governor January 17, 1998.
  • Richard Cullen (1948– ), from Henrico County, appointed by Governor George F. Allen April 11, 1997, to fill an unexpired term, took office on June 12, 1997, and served until January 17, 1998. Republican.
  • Mark Lawrence Earley (1954– ), from Chesapeake, January 17, 1998–June 4, 2001. Republican. Resigned.
  • Randolph Allen Beales (1960– ), from Henrico County, acting attorney general, June 4–July 11, 2001; elected by the General Assembly on July 10, 2001, to fill an unexpired term, sworn into office on July 11, and served until January 12, 2002. Republican.
  • Jerry Walter Kilgore (1961– ), from Henrico County, January 12, 2002–February 1, 2005. Republican. Resigned.
  • Judith Williams Jagdmann (1959– ), from Henrico County, elected by the General Assembly on January 27 to fill an unexpired term, sworn into office on February 1, 2005, and served until January 14, 2006. Republican.
  • Robert Francis McDonnell (1954– ), from Virginia Beach, January 14, 2006–February 20, 2009. Republican. Resigned. Became governor January 16, 2010.
  • William Cleveland Mims (1957– ), from Henrico County, elected by the General Assembly on February 26 to fill an unexpired term, sworn into office on February 27, 2009, and served until January 16, 2010.
  • Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli (1968– ), from Fairfax County, January 16, 2010–January 11, 2014, Republican.
  • Mark Rankin Herring (1961– ), from Loudoun County, January 11, 2014– , Democrat.
Further Reading
Salmon, Emily J. and Edward D. C. Campbell Jr., eds. The Hornbook of Virginia History: A Ready-Reference Guide to the Old Dominion's People, Places, and Past. Fourth Edition. Richmond, Virginia: The Library of Virginia, 1994.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    The Hornbook of Virginia History. Attorneys General of Virginia. (2014, January 21). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Attorneys_General_of_Virginia.

  • MLA Citation:

    The Hornbook of Virginia History. "Attorneys General of Virginia." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: April 12, 2012 | Last modified: January 21, 2014


Contributed by The Hornbook of Virginia History, a publication of the Library of Virginia.