BALSA and Legal Aid

UVA Law’s Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) formed in October 1971. Alongside the organization’s main goals of increasing student and faculty diversity, BALSA’s founding members forged their community of action through legal aid. During the 1971-1972 academic year, BALSA members took on pro bono work to provide legal counsel to underserved communities, particularly through collaborations with local legal aid groups like the CharlottesvilleAlbemarle Legal Aid Society (now the Legal Aid Justice Center, founded in 1967 by a group of Charlottesville attorneys and UVA Law students) and the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society. 

This Black History Month marks the one-year anniversary of 50 Years of BLSA, a collaborative project between Law Special Collections and the Black Law Students Association to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the organization. Read more about the project here. One year after the project, we continue to learn about BLSA through archival research and oral history interviews with alumni/ae. Shortly after the project’s debut, then-BLSA President Allison Burns ’22 heard from Bobby Vassar ’72 about the importance of legal aid work to BALSA’s founding members.

COMMUNITY SERVICE THROUGH THE LEGAL ASSISTANCE SOCIETY

Bobby Vassar ’72, James Ghee ’72, and Gwendolyn Jones Jackson ’72 were among the founding BALSA members who participated in the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society, particularly the Society’s Welfare Rights Project. The Project partnered with the Virginia Welfare Rights Organization to assist Virginia residents who requested welfare assistance, were denied, and then exercised their right to a fair hearing to reverse their verdict. Law students conducted legal investigations and advocated for their welfare candidates before a panel of local welfare officials and a hearing officer appointed by the Virginia State Board of Welfare. Project members represented Virginia residents from Albemarle, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fauquier, and Greene counties, as well as residents from the cities of Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Bobby Vassar recalled that these welfare hearings were the first of their kind in at least one of the counties they represented.

“There were very few Blacks on the [welfare] rolls in these counties because Black women with children were expected to be maids and cooks in White homes or to do other menial labor jobs, so only a few of the most disabled women with children were considered worthy of receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC, now TANF). In several instances, all or some of the local Social Services Board members attended the hearings. Things got testy in some the hearings with one Board Chairman telling Jim Ghee “I think you done said about enough there, boy”, which prompted the State hearing officer to warn him he would clear the room if there were any further such outbursts. We were able to win benefits for almost all of the families we represented as a result of favorable hearing decisions, and that encouraged other eligible Black families to apply and receive benefits. 

Bobby Vassar ’72, personal correspondence with Allison Burns ’22, 11 February 2021. 

Ghee served as the project’s director from 1971-1972, even traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada in February 1971 to assist the National Welfare Rights Organization in reversing Nevada’s cut-off of a portion of the state’s welfare payments. 

Newspaper article with headline "Ghee Joins Effort Appealing Nevada Welfare Cutoffs"
“Ghee Joins Effort Appealing Nevada Welfare Cutoffs,” Virginia Law Weekly, 19 February 1971. Click the image to read the full article on HeinOnline (Netbadge login required).

“We knew there were risks and we were willing to take them.”

Outside the Legal Assistance Society, Vassar recalled working with then-ACLU attorney John C. Lowe ’67 and fellow BALSA members James Winstead ’72, S. DeLacy Stith ’72, and William “Joe” Bass ’72 to research juror discrimination in Central Virginia. Dean Monrad Paulsen provided the law students with a letter to show local clerks of court explaining that they were part of a UVA Law-sanctioned research project. The letter allowed them access to jury rolls in six surrounding counties. 

“We would use the letters to gain access to the jury rolls to write down the names and then go meet with a pre-arranged group of local Black residents to go over the names to identify whether any of them were Black. The clerk in one county (Nottoway) became suspicious of our group of 4 Blacks and one White after seeing us writing down the names of jurors and actually called the Dean, but was not satisfied with the Dean’s explanation, so closed the office, kicked us out and called the sheriff, town police and state police. We were at the pre-arranged home going over the names we were able to write down so they were not able to find us at first, but once we got back on the highway headed home, one of the officers spotted us, called the others, stopped us and surrounded us with 3 cars of officers who got out with hands on guns to ask us what we were doing. They made us get out of the car and not accepting our “research” story, they took the White student aside and quizzed him on what he was doing with these “colored boys” and how he was making himself look bad and could get in big trouble doing such things. He held to our story and they finally let us go with a warning to us not to return. It was plenty scary, but we knew there were risks and were willing to take them.” 

Bobby Vassar ’72, personal correspondence with Allison Burns ’22, 11 February 2021. 

Vassar recalls that as a result of their research, Lowe was able to file a settlement with the six counties involved to desegregate their jury rolls. 

Vassar’s recollections and this history now appear on the Service page of our online exhibit. We encourage you to explore 50 Years of BLSA to learn more about Black history at UVA Law.

Featured image: Members of the Black American Law Students Association, Barrister 1972. Front Row: Gloria Bouldin ’73, Jean Roane ’72; Second Row: Raymond Jackson ’73, Gwendolyn Jones ’72, Arthur McFarland ’73, John Scott ’73; Third Row: Charles Walker ’73, Adolphus Williams ’72, William “Joe” Bass ’72; Fourth Row: Bobby Vassar ’72, James Winstead ’72, Jack Gravely ’72, Charles Chambliss ’73.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is Head of Special Collections at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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Part II: The Making of “Bobbleheads by The Green Bag”

On December 6, 2021, UVA Law Special Collections debuted Bobbleheads by The Green Bag. The display, located in the Arthur J. Morris Law Library’s entryway, is a semi-permanent addition to our ongoing exhibitions. The exhibit is curated by Meggan Cashwell and Addie Patrick. 

The blog that follows is the second of a two-part series. If you are curious about the history of The Green Bag and the whimsical nature of acquiring their Supreme Court bobbleheads, we encourage you to check out our initial post here. What follows is a synopsis of our delightful conversation with Green Bag editor-in-chief and bobblehead creator Ross Davies.


My curatorial process with Addie always begins the same way: with copious notetaking and countless brainstorming sessions. Often the topic and timing of the exhibit is obvious, like our tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg upon the Justice’s passing in 2020. At other times, we try to create a concept that is both unique and historical, such as the department’s forthcoming exhibition on UVA Law student doodles (credit Special Collections head Randi Flaherty). The details matter most when curating an exhibit. Every object is carefully selected to represent the narrative and every word of exhibit text is pored over many times. On installation day, we scooch placards a little to the left and right and inch materials this way and that until everything is perfect. Our love of detail piqued our interest in The Green Bag’s Supreme Court Justice bobbleheads, each one decorated with intricate features—some obvious to the onlooker, others more subtle and nuanced. It is Ross Davies’ deep appreciation for detail along with American legal culture that inspired him to create The Green Bag’s Supreme Court bobbleheads as the journal’s editor-in-chief 

Color photograph of two women placing bobblehead figurines in exhibit cases
Meggan Cashwell (right) and Addie Patrick (left) install Bobbleheads by The Green Bag in the UVA Law Library entryway.

Addie and I first became acquainted with the bobbleheads when we were curating Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Law Library. Kent Olson, who recently retired as Head of Research Services, kept the library’s collection on his desk. We inquired if we could borrow Justice Ginsburg’s bobblehead for the exhibit and feature it with related paraphernalia. After Kent transferred the bobbleheads to Special Collections upon his retirement this past summer, we approached the department heads and library director about putting the figurines on display.  

Color photograph of a bobblehead figurine of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg bobblehead, 2012.

As we began researching, we quickly realized the bobbleheads are not your average ceramic statues. Since The Green Bag released its first bobblehead in 2003, they have become immensely popular in the legal community. The Law Library’s bobbleheads are not the only ones you will come across at the Law School. They adorn the desks of various faculty members as well. It did not take long for Addie and me to feel the enthusiasm around the bobbleheads. We squealed with excitement in the stacks of the library one afternoon when we flipped through the pages of a few past Green Bag issues and came across two bobblehead certificates.  

Our quest for bobblehead knowledge led us back to Kent who referred us to Law professor Thomas Nachbar. He kindly chatted with us regarding his role as a contributing editor (see part I), but he deferred to Ross Davies for all things bobblehead related. Tom introduced us to Ross via email and, a few days before winter break, we sat down with him over Zoom.  

Our desire to bring some reprieve to exam-weary students via the bobbleheads is exactly what Ross intended when he came up with the idea nearly twenty years ago: “It is a part of being human to have a sense of humor, to smile, to have a little bit of fun.” At a time when bobbleheads were all the rage in sports, Ross decided The Green Bag should create a bobblehead in the likeness of then Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. The bobblehead’s features would nod (pun intended) to some of the Chief Justice’s most noteworthy opinions. 

Color photograph of bobblehead figurine of Justice William H. Rehnquist
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist bobblehead, 2003.

First, Ross had to determine who would make a bobblehead that would find its way to the Chief Justice himself. After purchasing multiple bobbleheads and exploring their different qualities, Ross determined that Alexander Global Promotions (AGP) was the obvious choice. According to their site, AGP is the number one bobblehead producer in the world. Ross soon found himself on the phone with Malcolm Alexander, founder of the company, who shared his enthusiasm for the concept. A collaboration blossomed that remains at the center of Green Bag bobblehead production today.

Much like our curatorial methods, Ross has his own involved and detailed process for creating the next bobblehead. Once he and other Green Bag editors select a Justice, Ross begins reading that Justice’s opinions. The facts of the cases, the analogies Justices make in their opinions, and the interesting words they use become the basis for bobblehead annotations. Ross then writes page after page of specs and sends them off to AGP. From there, Ross and AGP go back and forth on drafts until the bobblehead is just right. Ross wanted Justice John Paul Stevens to stand on a Sony Betamax as a reference to Sony v. Universal (1984). Malcolm Alexander suggested that Ross purchase that particular model and send it to AGP so that they could design the base of the bobblehead as an exact replica. Ross explained that the Sony Betamax he purchased sat on a table as a visual reference for AGP employees during production.

Color photograph of bobblehead figurine of Justice John Paul Stevens
Justice John Paul Stevens bobblehead, 2004.

The bobbleheads are hand painted, allowing AGP to provide the level of specificity the Green Bag desires for each figurine. The forthcoming Justice Sonia Sotomayor bobblehead is standing on a plate (a reference to her opinion in a patent case), with a slice of pie and a loaf of bread at her feet (references to her use of analogies involving pies, loaves, and slices). AGP made each item look as close to the actual baked good as possible. “Do you know how hard it is to paint a piece of ceramic to look like a piece of apple pie?Ross exclaimed. “We challenge their art; we challenge their ability to make cool things. Justice Sotomayor is wearing a baseball mitt (a reference to a baseball analogy in yet another opinion), and not just any mitt. It is modeled from the mitt of Jorge Posada, catcher for the New York Yankees. Justice Sotomayor is a longtime Yankees fan and sits in the Judge’s Chambers section at Yankee Stadium.

Forthcoming Justice Sonia Sotomayor bobblehead. Image courtesy Ross Davies, 2022.

As for choosing the next Justice to feature, it is largely “arbitrary and capricious” in true Green Bag fashion. Unsurprisingly, Ross says he receives many suggestions. The Green Bag does have one “rule” for the present Court: A Justice has to serve for a minimum of ten years before getting a bobblehead. Ross admits that there is a sense of finality to summing up a current Justice’s career. In response, The Green Bag has started making “pocket part” bobbleheads—mini versions of the originals that feature later opinions. The journal has already produced two pocket versions for Justice William H. Rehnquist.  

The Green Bag’s decision to make non-Justice bobbleheads in recent years has allowed them to include other lawyers who have made a profound impact on the profession. When we asked Ross why he selected young Thurgood Marshall, Belva Ann Lockwood, and William T. Coleman, he simply responded, “They are lawyers whose contributions merit memorialization in a bobblehead.” Ross’ love of American legal history, which he teaches at George Mason University among other subjects, is evident in every bobblehead he crafts. 

At the end of the day, Ross says The Green Bag is simply trying to be nice: “We’re not in this to score points.” The ultimate purpose of the bobbleheads, besides giving a Justice a good-natured laugh, is to spread knowledge about the Supreme Court: “We have a chance to contribute a tiny bit to people understanding the depth and character and trajectory of the Supreme Court. Our challenge is to create and properly orient what we do so it fits the flow of history.” 

Written by

Meggan Cashwell

Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

View all posts by and .

Part I: The Making of “Bobbleheads by The Green Bag”

On December 6, 2021, UVA Law Special Collections debuted Bobbleheads by The Green Bag. The display, located in the Arthur J. Morris Law Library’s entryway, is a semi-permanent addition to our ongoing exhibitions. The exhibit is curated by Meggan Cashwell and Addie Patrick.

The blog that follows is the first of a two-part series. The post below provides a history of the law journal The Green Bag and its bobblehead collectibles as well as a behind-the-scenes look at our curatorial process. The second post will feature an interview with Green Bag editor-in-chief and bobblehead creator Ross Davies.


Patrons and passersby who come to the Law Library will notice some familiar faces as they enter through the main doors. At the end of the reader rails, which narrate the Law School’s two-hundred-year history, are two display cases now filled with the nodding figurines of Supreme Court Justices and other notable U.S. lawyers. These whimsical bobbleheads are produced by The Green Bag, a quarterly law journal first published from 1889-1914 and revived in 1997.

Color photograph of bobblehead figurines
The Law Library’s collection of Green Bag bobbleheads.

The Green Bag was likely named after the green bag that many nineteenth-century legal professionals used to carry their papers. The idea for the journal came from Charles C. Soule, an entrepreneurial bookseller from Boston who had been publishing an entertaining advertising brochure, Legal Bibliography,since October 1881. The first Green Bag issues, which Soule began publishing in 1889, included legal cases in verse, portraits of members of the bench and bar, sketches of American law schools, and articles on legal history.1 The Green Bag journal was reestablished in 1997 by Ross Davies, David Gossett, and Montgomery Kosma, three former classmates at the University of Chicago Law School. This “second edition” publishes similar articles designed to inform and amuse legal professionals.2 UVA Law professor Thomas Nachbar, who attended Chicago Law with the three founders, serves as a contributing editor. Nachbar designed the original website for The Green Bag. He and his colleagues admired the publication because they longed for a law journal that would invite discussion and inquiry but not demand the formality of rigorous Bluebook citations.

“We need a forum in which legal thinkers can reveal their thoughts without spending six months to encase them in the cloying paraphernalia prescribed by the prevailing mores of contemporary scholarship. We need a periodical to which the inquiring reader can turn for amusement, enlightenment, and even instruction without having to take the weekend off. The exchange of ideas should be a treat, not a chore; and it is in that spirit that the Green Bag 2d is conceived.”   

David P. Currie, Green Bag3

 In 2003, The Green Bag began producing bobblehead dolls and other collectibles, which add to the journal’s whimsy. The idea came from Davies (more on that in our forthcoming post) who released the first bobblehead, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in 2003. Standing atop a map of Carbon County, Wyoming, and holding volume 529 of the U.S. Reports, the Rehnquist bobblehead launched The Green Bag’s production of legal collectibles which portray  “Justices as judges, respectfully yet entertainingly.” Davies designs these “ceramic portraits,” as he calls them, and encourages collectors to guess the meanings behind each figurine’s accessories.4 Following a bobblehead’s release, The Green Bag publishes an annotation page which provides citations for the bobblehead. 

Color photograph of bobblehead figurine of Justice William H. Rehnquist
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist bobblehead, 2003.

Green Bag Supreme Court bobbleheads, of which there are 28 so far, span the history of the Court, from the very first Justices to those currently serving. Each Justice has a unique set of features (annotations) that represent some of their most notable opinions, which occasionally incorporate some personal aspects as well. Sandra Day O’Connor’s bobblehead is wearing shoes that replicate the ones she wore when she was sworn in as the first female Justice on September 25, 1981. Sitting beside her bobblehead is a bobbling cow, signifying her childhood spent on the Lazy B Ranch in Arizona, an experience Justice O’Connor considers instrumental to her career. In recent years, The Green Bag has started making non-Justice bobbleheads including Belva Ann Lockwood, young Thurgood Marshall, and William T. Coleman Jr. The bobbleheads are handmade by Alexander Global Promotions.  

Color photograph of bobblehead figurine of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor bobblehead, 2004.

The Green Bag produces about a thousand of each bobblehead and distributes them in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner. Some subscribers find bobblehead certificates printed within the pages of their Green Bag issue. The certificates must then be delivered in-person to the offices of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, in Washington, DC, the official “bobbleheadquarters,” according to The Green Bag’s website. On occasion, The Green Bag prints certificates on the backs of trading cards called “Supreme Court Sluggers,” many of which feature paintings by John Sargent III and Alec Spangler. Like the bobbleheads and the more recent snow globes, The Green Bag gives these cards away “arbitrarily and capriciously.” Surprise certificates also show up in items auctioned for charity and in other unexpected places.5 Lucky Law School librarian Kate Boudouris received the Justice Byron R. White bobblehead when she attended a presentation by Davies at the 2019 American Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference.  

The Law Library’s collection of bobbleheads, which is extensive but incomplete, adorned the desk of Kent Olson, former Head of Research Services. Olson had been collecting the bobbleheads on the library’s behalf since 2003. He tendered his certificates with Nachbar who, at one time, helped distribute the bobbleheads as a contributing editor. Once distribution transferred to O’Melveny and Myers in DC, Olson sent a friend to pick up the bobbleheads on the library’s behalf. Olson turned the bobbleheads over to Law Special Collections when he retired in the summer of 2021. The bobbleheads are a unique addition to the library’s archives, which primarily consist of print materials.  

Color photograph of woman cleaning bobblehead with paintbrush
Meggan Cashwell, library postdoc, cleans each bobblehead in preparation for their debut.

The exhibit traces the history of The Green Bag as a publication and explores the process of acquiring the bobbleheads. The display is organized chronologically, with past and present Justices grouped separately. We intentionally timed the display to provide a bit of fun to students and faculty during exams. For the initial two weeks, we invited patrons to take our own version of The Green Bag’s “Lunchtime Law Quiz.” Those who answered three out of five questions correctly were rewarded with UVA Law prizes 

Color photograph of two women photographing bobbleheads
Jane McBrian (left), digitization specialist, and Addie Patrick (right), library coordinator, photograph the bobbleheads for eventual inclusion on the Law Special Collections website.

Our display is, in part, inspired by the University of Minnesota’s online exhibit, “Equal Caricature Under Law,” curated by Barbara Berdahl, Pat Graybil, and Ryan Greenwood. Yale University, the official repository of The Green Bag bobbleheads, also had a display, “Wobbling Justice.” The Law Library intends to add to the exhibit if we are among the lucky subscribers to receive certificates for future bobbleheads.

 

Content for this exhibit and two-part blog series is indebted to conversations with Kent Olson, Thomas Nachbar, Ryan Greenwood, and Ross Davies.

Notes

  1. Ross E. Davies, “Legal-Bibliographical Roots: Fragments of a Green Bag Origin Story” The Green Bag 24, no. 3 (Spring 2021): 253-72.
  2. For more on the Green Bag bobbleheads, see Jessica Gresko, “Bobbleheads Honor Supreme Court Justices,” The Advocate, 1 January 2014, https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_07350219-8da0-5bde-91f1-af8e84b79fae.html; “Bobbleheads Honor Supreme Court,” Politico, 31 December 2013https://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/supreme-court-justice-bobbleheads-101621; Christopher Capozziello, “Relax, Legal Scholars: Bobbleheads are Safe at Yale,” New York Times17 March 2010.
  3. David P. Currie, “Green Bags,” The Green Bag 1, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 1-2.
  4. Ross E. Davies, “Ceramic Spirits of the Law” The Green Bag 24, no. 4 (Summer 2021): 357-70. 
  5. The Green Bag’s website outlines the process of how to acquire a bobblehead.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

Meggan Cashwell

Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).

View all posts by and .

Fifty Years Later: An Archival Look at the 1971 Virginia Constitution

Introduction

Law Special Collections recently installed Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971 in the lobby of the Law Library. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1971 Virginia Constitution, the exhibitprovides a retrospective look at Virginia’s Commission on Constitutional Revision through the work of UVA Law professor and constitutional law expert A. E. Dick Howard (’61). Howard served as executive director of the Commission, an appointment he received from Commission chair and former Virginia governor Albertis Harrison Jr. in February 1968. The materials in the exhibit are curated from Howard’s personal papers, which he donated to Law Special Collections in 1981.  

Forming the Commission

In 1968, Law Professor A. E. Dick Howard (’61) began work as executive director of the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Revision, charged with overhauling Virginia’s supreme legal document. In the wake of massive resistance to school integration, Howard and the Commission set out to revise the 1902 Virginia Constitution, which disenfranchised many Black Virginians and explicitly outlawed racial integration in state schools.  

Howard undertook the formidable task of administering the work of the Commission, which consisted of ten members and a chair. The commissioners were highly visible legal and political figures, chosen for their stature in the Commonwealth. They included, among others, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell Jr., civil rights attorney Oliver Hill, former UVA president and Virginia governor Colgate Darden, and Law School Dean Hardy Dillard (’27). 

Pictured are several members of the Commission in Williamsburg, 1969: (left to right) Davis Paschall, Ted Dalton, Alexander Harman Jr., Colgate Darden Jr., Lewis Powell Jr., Albert Bryan Jr., Oliver Hill, and Hardy Dillard.

The Revision Process

Following a lengthy study of recent constitutional revisions in other states, Howard proposed a plan of operation and a timetable for the work of the Commission. He divided the Commission into five subcommittees, each of which was headed by a counsel and series of advisors. Counsels were chosen from faculty at Virginia’s four law schools—including UVA Law Professor Peter Low—and from prominent attorneys in private practice, like Jack Spain JrThe Commission tasked the five subcommittees with recommending revisions to assigned focus areas: Bill of Rights, Franchise, Apportionment, and Education; Taxation and Finance; Legislature and Judiciary; Executive and Corporations; and Local Government.  

Here at the Law School, the Virginia Law Weekly covered the stages of the constitutional revision process, with particular emphasis on the involvement of UVA Law professors and students. During the summer of 1968, the Commission hired eighteen law students as research associates to assist the five subcommittees. Twelve of the eighteen associates were from UVA Law. Frances Farmer, UVA Law Librarian and first female Law faculty member, was appointed as Librarian to the Commission at Howard’s request.

Commission meetings took place at various locations across the state, including Charlottesville. Commission members and counsels are pictured here on the steps of Clark Hall, home of the UVA Law School at the time. The eighteen-person group of Commissioners and counsels included eight UVA Law alums.

The Commission submitted its final report to Governor Mills Godwin and the General Assembly in January 1969. Howard acted as special counsel to the Special Session of the General Assembly charged with amending the constitution in light of the Commission’s proposals. Virginia law required that amendments to the existing constitution be ratified by two sessions of the General Assembly and then submitted to the people in the form of referenda. As special counsel, Howard interpreted the Commission proposals to the Assembly, attended committee meetings, met individually with Assembly members, provided constitutional advice, and finally re-wrote each proposed revision in terms acceptable to both houses of the General Assembly.  

Building Support for Ratification

Former governor and Commission chair Albertis Harrison Jr. presents the final report to Governor Mills Godwin Jr., January 1969.

After Howard and the Committee submitted their revisions to the General Assembly in 1969, Howard set off on a tour around Virginia to encourage public support for the new constitution.  

Four proposals related to amending Virginia’s Constitution were put on the ballot for Virginians to vote upon in November 1970: passage of the main body of the constitution, the potential legalization of lotteries by the Assembly, and two matters pertaining to bond financing. Howard’s speaking engagements created a space for citizens to ask questions and express concerns about the four proposals. 

Howard is pictured here at an open forum in Richmond, Virginia in 1970.

Voters passed the revised constitution with a 72% majority. The other provisions passed by 63% or higher. The new constitution, ratified July 1, 1971, remains in force today and includes a non-discrimination clause as well as guaranteed state and local funding for public education, among other provisions.  

Professor Howard Revisits His Collection

Howard views items on display from his collection.

On September 20, 2021, Professor Howard—who still teaches constitutional law—stopped by the library to view materials from his collections. Howard assisted in the curatorial process, loaning two items including a testimonial given to him by Governor Ralph Northam on the fiftieth anniversary of ratification (on display) as well as a certificate from members of the Commission (featured here). We asked Professor Howard why he donated the materials to the UVA Law Library. He said he felt strongly that the records should be preserved. Howard also noted that much of the work of constitutional revision was completed here since the Law School’s faculty, students, and librarians were involved in the process from the beginning. Most important, Howard was confident library staff would take great care of the materials: “I had so much respect for the work of this law library that I knew my colleagues here would do a first-class job of collecting and curating and making the collection available.” 

We invite patrons to explore Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971, which will remain on display through December 2021.  

On January 11, 1969, during the final meeting of the Commission, the commissioners presented Howard with this certificate in recognition of his outstanding leadership and many contributions. Each commissioner signed the certificate, which now hangs in Howard’s office.

This post is indebted to the work of former archivist Marsha Trimble, who processed Howard’s papers in 1981 and wrote the original description, portions of which are featured here and in the exhibit.

Featured image: Dick Howard and Meggan Cashwell discuss the exhibit “Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971.” 20 September 2021.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

Meggan Cashwell

Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).

View all posts by and .

The Library’s Entryway Exhibit: Revisited

The Special Collections team is excited to announce the completed renovation of the Law Library’s Entryway Exhibit, which originally premiered in March 2014. The initial iteration as well as the current exhibit were designed by Gropen.

Since the exhibit’s opening, Special Collections has expanded its rare materials, research goals, and understanding of the Law School’s complex history, particularly as it relates to issues of slavery, discrimination, and diversity. The result is a new timeline (or “reader rail”), additional hanging images mounted on the wall, and a redesigned introduction panel which matches the University’s updated brand.

Color photograph of introductory panel to the entryway exhibit

The exhibit is divided between the themes “The Landscape” and “The Law,” inviting patrons to consider significant moments in the Law School’s past within the framework of its physical spaces. Classes were originally taught in the law professor’s residence on the Lawn. The school then moved several times before relocating to North Grounds in 1974. In addition, the exhibit covers Virginia Law’s evolving curriculum and major shifts in student life and culture.

Related Special Collections projects informed the bulk of the exhibit’s revisions, including ongoing research into how professors taught the laws of slavery during the antebellum period, explorations into the historical landscape of North Grounds, and the Law School curricular history book project headed by Postdoctoral Fellow Meggan Cashwell.

While the entryway guides the Law School’s students, faculty, and staff into the library and its resources, we encourage patrons to pause and explore the updated exhibit, and with it, UVA Law’s 200-year history.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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The Historical Landscape of North Grounds: Video Walking Tour

The Law School moved from Clark Hall to North Grounds in 1974, eleven years after UVA purchased the property to construct its JAG, Law, and Business schools.

But have you ever wondered what was here before the North Grounds complex? Law Special Collections has begun to research this question, and we are excited to announce the launch of our video walking tour which shares our research so far. Explore the website and watch the video here.

Color photograph of brick chimney in ruins.
Albemarle County’s first poor house (1806-1870) was located just behind today’s Law School. Ruins of the poor house superintendent’s house still stand alongside the Rivanna Trail.

Originally slated to be an in-person walking tour during Alumni Reunion, The Historical Landscape of North Grounds presents the multi-layered histories which make up the North Grounds landscape. To name a few, the property was once the site of Albemarle County’s first poor house, the home of the Duke Family and their enslaved laborers, and the location of Charlottesville’s first barbecue grounds.

Today, physical remnants of this landscape are made accessible by the Rivanna Trail. Archival material, archaeological research, and GIS mapping technologies provide greater insight into these histories as well as into the lives of the people who lived and labored here.

This project exemplifies Law Special Collections’ ongoing commitment to preserve and share the institutional history of the Law School, which includes the history of the landscape where the Law School now resides. This summer, we are eager to welcome to the project Jack MacLeod, UVA rising fourth year, who will continue this research as an intern with UVA’s Institute for Public History.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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Collaborative Storytelling: “50 Years of BLSA” Online Exhibit Now Live

Today marks the official launch of the Law Library’s online exhibit “50 Years of BLSA,” the product of a months-long collaboration between Law Special Collections and the Black Law Students Association at UVA Law. Explore the exhibit here.

On October 16, 1970, UVA Law’s Black students founded a chapter of the Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) to advocate for issues of racial justice. The founding priorities included increasing Black student enrollment, hiring Black faculty, and creating an engaged and welcoming environment at UVA Law.

The online exhibit provides a deep dive into BLSA’s founding and five decades of student activism, service, and community at the Law School. The site’s five sections (History, Service, Black Excellence, Reflections, and Gallery) share both the Law Library’s archival collections and BLSA’s resources.

Forming Partnerships with Student Groups

As BLSA’s 50th anniversary approached, Law Special Collections and the BLSA executive board agreed to collaborate on a project to exhibit BLSA’s history. We met frequently with Allison Burns ’22 (BLSA President) and Genesis Moore ’23 (BLSA Historian) to determine the content and layout of the site, and to exchange resources. We are thankful for their time and input.

Our collaboration with BLSA is Special Collections’ first direct collaboration with a student organization, and we are proud to launch what we hope to be a rich resource for those interested in the Law School’s history.

We look forward to future collaborations with other student groups to highlight the many histories and experiences that make up UVA Law.

Header image: BALSA Executive Board, 1971-1972.

From left to right, front row: Arthur C. McFarland ’73, Stephanie Valentine Carpenter ’73, and Charles E. Walker ’73.

Back row, Jerry Williams ’73, Leroy W. Bannister ’73, Bobby Vassar ’72, and John W. Scott, Jr. ’73, pictured in 1971, Records of the Virginia Law Weekly.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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The Law Library Celebrates Fifty Years of BLSA

Fifty years ago, on Friday, October 16, 1970, UVA Law’s Black students formed the Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA), a chapter of the National Black Law Students Association. BLSA addressed the growing need for a formal body to voice racial and equity concerns, both at UVA Law and within the Charlottesville community, and establish lasting solutions. In 1970, BLSA members advocated for greater recruitment efforts to increase the number of Black students at the Law School and for greater transparency in the faculty hiring process. At the time, there was not a single Black person on the Law faculty. 

Front page of the Virginia Law Weekly, 23 October 1970. The headline on the left reads "Blacks Inaugurate BALSA Chapter to Provide Forum."
Image Courtesy Virginia Law Weekly.

UVA Law hired its first Black professor, Larry Gibson, in 1972 due in large part to BLSA’s persistent advocacy and strong leadership. To learn more about BLSA’s resilient efforts to increase diversity at UVA Law during its first decade, check out this Spring 2018 article from the UVA Lawyer.

Larry Gibson, Law Professor at UVA from 1972 to 1974.

Through the years, BLSA has pushed for change beyond faculty hiring and student recruitment. BLSA has provided legal services for underserved members of the Charlottesville community, staged successful protests, boycotts, and teach-ins, addressed national issues, and collaborated with the Black Student Alliance, UVA’s undergraduate Black student coalition. As an advocate for racial justice at the Law School, BLSA has also served as a social and philanthropic organization that proudly represents the Law School while always holding it accountable. 

Today, the UVA Law Library Special Collections team is proud to announce our collaboration with BLSA to produce an online exhibit on the organization’s history, set to be released in February 2021 in conjunction with Black History Month. 

We encourage readers to explore BLSA’s social media to learn more about the organization’s history and discover their commemorative efforts and activities. Follow BLSA on Twitter @UVABLSA, find them on Facebook, and check out their website here. 

For further reading:

How BALSA Began, UVA Law News, 9 October 2020 

Photos from 50 Years of BLSA, UVA Law News, 13 October 2020  

UVA BLSA Wins Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Year, 20 February 2020 

Black Law Students Mattered, UVA Lawyer, Spring 2018

UVA Law Special Collections Archives

Select articles from the Virginia Law Weekly [Requires Netbadge login]:

Letter from BLSA to the Editors denouncing implicit racism in editorial published in previous issue, 16 October 1970

Blacks Inaugurate BALSA Chapter to Provide Forum, 23 October 1970

Black Students Request Inquiry by Government, 24 March 1972

BALSA Aids Recruitment of Minorities to Law School, 3 November 1972

BALSA Stages Teach-In; Urges Boycott of Classes, 28 October 1983

Almost 200 Participate in Boycott, 18 November 1983

Robinson Proves You Can Go Home Again, 21 September 1984

BLSA urges divestiture of University funds, 15 February 1985

Focus on Diversity: Is U.Va. Doing Enough? A Call for Diversification, 13 April 1990

Mere Sacrifices: BLSA’s Contribution to the Community, 8 November 1996

BLSA Wins National Chapter of the Year Award, 4 April 2003


Header image: Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) officers, 1974.

Back row, left to right: Ronald R. Wesley ’75, Kester I. Crosse ’75, and Dennis L. Montgomery ’75. 

Front row, left to right: Delores R. Boyd ’75, Jan Freeman ’75, and Sheila Jackson Lee ’75.

Written by

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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