WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07) entered the following statement into the Congressional Record for the 112th Congress honoring the life of Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. and his commitment to justice:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the distinguished life and achievements of the Honorable Leroy R. Hassell Sr., former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, who passed away this week at the very young age of 55. While he left us in the prime of his life, his compassion and commitment to justice will leave a lasting impression on the judicial system and the world beyond the bench.
A Norfolk native, he grew up in Broad Creek and attended Norview High School. He graduated from the University of Virginia and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School. He then returned to Richmond where he quickly rose through the ranks to become partner at McGuire Woods, one of Virginia’s largest law firms.
After graduating from William & Mary Law School and passing the Virginia bar, I remember when Governor Gerald Baliles nominated him to the Virginia Supreme Court in 1989. At the age of 34, Justice Hassell became the second African American justice on the court after John Charles Thomas. In 2002, his colleagues elected him to serve as Chief Justice, making him Virginia’s first African American Chief Justice. Remarkably, he was the first leader of the high court chosen by his peers rather than through seniority. At the time, he was also the youngest serving member of the court.
Chief Justice Hassell always had a great love of law. He was a man of faith and deep personal convictions. He cared deeply about the people of the Commonwealth and was passionate about helping others. He was a tireless advocate for the poor and the mentally ill and fought hard to make the courts more accessible and more equitable.
Mr. Speaker, please join me in remembering Justice Hassell, a life-long public servant and powerful voice for all Virginians.