Virginia's First Black Chief Justice Dies

February 9, 2011

Virginia Supreme Court Justice Leroy Hassell Sr., the state's first black chief justice, has died. He was 55.

The court disclosed his death in a brief statement Wednesday that didn't include cause of death or other details.

Hassell was appointed to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Gerald L. Baliles in 1989. In 2003 he became the court's first black chief justice and the 24th overall. He held the post until the end of last month.

A Norfolk native, Hassell graduated from the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School, then returned to Richmond where he became a partner in the politically muscular McGuire Woods law firm.

When he joined the Supreme Court at age 34, he became only the second black justice on the court after John Charles Thomas.

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