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J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.

Governor of Virginia

James Lindsay Almond, Jr.

James Lindsay Almond, Jr., was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on June 15, 1898. From a young age he showed an interest in oratory and politics and by the time he was sixteen he was making speeches on behalf of local political candidates.

During the First World War, Almond served as a private in the Students Army Training Corps at the University of Virginia (1917-1918), after which he taught school at Locust Grove, Virginia, (1919) and served as the principal of Zoar High School (1921 and 1922). He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1923, was admitted to the Virginia Bar that same year, and worked in private practice as a trial lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia, until becoming an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in 1930.

Almond's rise up the political ladder began when he was an active participant in Harry F. Byrd's successful campaign for Governor of Virginia in 1925. He was also part of the Democratic presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. He was rewarded for his work with an appointment as a Judge on the Hustings Court of the City of Roanoke in 1933.

During his tenure on the Hustings Court, Almond fought against election fraud, illegal liquor sales, and unequal treatment given to whites and blacks by juries.

Almond left the Hustings Court in 1945 to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by the sudden resignation of Clifton Woodrum. He won a landslide victory and ultimately served from January 22, 1946, to April 17, 1948. During that tenure he participated in the debates on such major legislative efforts as the Marshall Plan and the Taft-Hartley Act, both of which he vigorously supported.

Almond resigned from the House when he unexpectedly became Attorney General of Virginia following the death of Harvey Black Apperson. Much of his time in that office was spent fighting against school integration.

By the time Almond resigned as Attorney General (on August 28, 1957) to run for Governor, Virginia was in the midst of a widespread effort to maintain segregation in its public schools. Almond won the election by pledging to uphold what became known as the Massive Resistance movement, and was sworn in on January 11, 1958.

Almond being sworn in as Governor
Almond being sworn in as Governor

In September 1958, Almond made good on a promise of his predecessor, Thomas B. Stanley, when he closed schools in Charlottesville, Front Royal, and Norfolk rather than bow to court-ordered integration. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, however, overturned the school-closing law on January 19, 1959, the same day that the federal district court in Norfolk made a similar ruling. Despite last-minute appeals from Almond, the closed schools reopened to an integrated student body. By early in 1960, Almond had retreated from his previously unyielding stance on desegregation, and grudgingly "allowed" schools to integrate.

Almond tells newsmen he favors postponing school openings until integration question is settled
Almond discussing school integration

Almond left the Governor's office in 1962 and was appointed to the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals in June 1963. He served on that body until his death in Richmond, Virginia, on April 15, 1986. He is interred in Evergreen Burial Park in Roanoke.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
Encyclopedia Virginia

See Also

First World War
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The Integration Fights of 1958

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This page was last updated on September 11, 2018.