Posted by Phil Riggan – email
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Former Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. passed away Wednesday morning.
The court announced Hassell's death in a brief statement this morning and said further details will be forthcoming.
The 55-year-old Hassell served as a member of the Supreme Court since 1989. In 2003 he became the court's first black chief justice -- a post he held until last Jan. 31, when Justice Cynthia Kinser succeeded him.
NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin, who is in contact with the family, said that he had longstanding health problems.
Statement of Governor McDonnell on the Passing
of the Honorable Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr.
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today regarding the passing of the Honorable Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The Governor has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until his burial on all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in Virginia. Additionally, Justice Hassell will lie in state in the Virginia State Capitol prior to burial.
"It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of the Honorable Leroy Hassell, a personal friend who will be greatly missed. I recall fondly our numerous private lunches in which we would discuss law and life. He had keen insights into the human spirit. Virginia has lost a brilliant legal mind, accomplished jurist and devoted public servant. Leroy had an unmatched passion and excitement for the rule of law. Growing up in Norfolk, a son of two educators, Leroy had an innate drive, telling his peers as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, that he would attend law school at Harvard University, which he did. He later would become partner at one of Virginia's largest law firms in just seven years. But even greater, it was because of this passion and excitement that he was sworn in as a Justice to the Virginia Supreme Court at just 34 years old, one of the youngest justices in the history of the court, and in 2002, he became the first African American Chief Justice on the court, a monumental achievement for Virginia and him. Leroy never shied from standing his ground on principal in the court, making his concerns known in an effort to improve the judicial system. He was a man of great faith who dedicated his life to bettering others and providing legal care for the indigent. Leroy was instrumental in the creation of the Mental Health Reform Commission, which helped lead to important changes to the way in which Virginia addressed the needs of the mentally ill. On behalf of all Virginians, I offer my deepest sympathies to his family and his many, many friends during this tough time."