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Posted at 10:35 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Va.'s first black chief justice dies

By Anita Kumar

This post has been updated.

Leroy R. Hassell Sr., former chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, died Wednesday after a long illness, court officials announced.

Hassell, 55, served two four-year terms on the court. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Gerald L. Baliles in 1989. When he joined the Supreme Court at age 34, he became only the second black justice on the court after John Charles Thomas. In 2003, he became the court's first black chief justice. .

He stepped down as chief justice Jan. 31 but continued to serve on the court. He was succeeded as chief justice by Justice Cynthia D. Kinser.

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 connected McGuire Woods law firm.

Hassell's death leaves two vacancies on the court. Justice Lawrence Koontz left the court on Feb. 1 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The Virginia General Assembly will be responsible for appointing new justices.

Staff writer Tom Jackman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

By Anita Kumar  | February 9, 2011; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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Comments

Isn't it screwy how the "Census: MoCo now majority minority" link under the "Government & Politics" from the Metro / Local landing page "mistakenly" redirects to this page.

WaPo editors rarely correct online errors (even after repeated reminding) and systematically bury politically discomfiting stories in their online edition labyrinth of links/blogs/etc.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 10, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

(I thought it was the Post's implicit policy not to allow comments on online obits, death notices, and the like. I guess this must primarily be considered a Virginia / politics item.)

Apparently here across the Potomac, Maryland's first black Court of Appeals chief justice, Robert Mack Bell, gained his title in 1996.

Very sad for Justice Haskell's family; 55 is way too early to go.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 10, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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