Thomas Bahnson Stanley was born in Henry County on July 16, 1890. In 1924 he founded the Stanley Furniture Company and was a dairy farmer before turning to politics in 1930. He was a member of the House of Delegates from 1930 to 1946, serving as Speaker of the House from 1942 to 1946. Before being elected governor, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1946 to 1953.
Early in his term as Virginia governor, the Supreme Court handed down the controversial Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools. Stanley initially urged Virginians to accept the ruling. It quickly became apparent, however, that white politicians in Southside Virginia, where the powerful Byrd Organization's political base resided, would not accept desegregation under any circumstances. Stanley created a committee composed primarily of Southside politicians to craft a response to the Brown decision. The resulting "Gray Plan," named after the committee's chairman, segregationist Garland Gray, of Sussex County, gave localities the choice to desegregate their schools but also provided legislation that would allow those localities to skirt integration if they wished. The Commonwealth, for example, would supply state-funded tuition grants to students who wanted to attend private—and therefore segregated—schools instead of desegregated public schools.
At the same time, Stanley and the Democrats, who were heavily influenced by James J. Kilpatrick, editor of the Richmond News Leader, and Senator Harry Flood Byrd Sr., were adopting the notion of interposition—an argument harkening back to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves of 1798 and John C. Calhoun's support of nullification in the 1830s—that states could reject federal infringements on their sovereignty. The combined popularity of the Gray Plan's "local option" and the concept of interposition encouraged Stanley and other Byrd Democrats to adopt a more drastic strategy. A revised proposal, dubbed the Stanley Plan, erased the so-called "local option" on school desegregation and, instead, empowered the governor to shut down any school in danger of being desegregated.
Following his term as governor, Stanley went on to become the vice president and director of the First National Bank, as well as the chairman of the Commission on State and Local Revenues and Expenditures. He also continued his work as a furniture manufacturer. He died on July 10, 1970, in Martinsville and was interred in Roselawn Burial Park.
July 16, 1890 - Thomas B. Stanley is born on a farm near Spencer in Henry County.
1924 - Thomas B. Stanley founds the Stanley Furniture Company several years before turning to politics.
1930–1946 - Thomas B. Stanley serves as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
1942–1946 - Thomas B. Stanley serves as Speaker of the House of Delegates.
1946–1953 - Thomas B. Stanley serves as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
November 3, 1953 - Thomas B. Stanley is elected governor of Virginia.
August 27, 1956 - Governor Thomas B. Stanley announces a package of Massive Resistance legislation that will become known as the Stanley Plan. Among other things, the plan gives the governor the power to close any schools facing a federal desegregation order.
July 10, 1970 - Thomas B. Stanley dies and is buried at Roselawn Burial Park in Martinsville.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Eskridge, S. K. Thomas B. Stanley (1890–1970). (2014, December 30). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Stanley_Thomas_Bahnson_1890-1970.
- MLA Citation:
Eskridge, Sara K. "Thomas B. Stanley (1890–1970)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 30 Dec. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: February 11, 2008 | Last modified: December 30, 2014
Contributed by Sara K. Eskridge, a doctoral candidate in history at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA.