Va.'s first black chief justice dies
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.
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