RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The community is remembering the life of a prominent figure in Virginia history. Leroy Hassell Sr., the first black state Supreme Court Chief Justice, died Wednesday at the age of 55.
Many people remember Hassell for his contribution to the state's legal system. He had ongoing health problems but his death today came as a surprise to many people.
State flags are flying at half staff Wednesday night as Virginia is in mourning. Leroy Hassell Sr. died from a medical illness at just age 55. Many politicians who knew him remember his life.
"I knew when he came to Richmond and when he was a young lawyer," said Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.
Jones remembers Justice Hassell for his work with the school board. Hassell followed Jones as chairman before moving on to become a judge.
"Very ambitious, very bright, brilliant legal mind," said Jones. "We've lost a very strong citizen a very huge resource that will no longer be here."
The Norfolk native's death comes at a time when his son, Leroy Hassell Jr., is facing life in prison for a home invasion and robbery. He'll be sentenced in March but the community is not letting legal trouble overshadow the legacy Hassell Senior leaves behind.
"He was the person who drove to the conversations, who drove the policy decisions and his fingerprints will be on the court system in Virginia for a long long time," said Senator Henry Marsh.
And to honor him, the Governor's office announced that Justice Hassell will lie in state at the Capitol before his burial so the public can pay its respects.
"Leroy was also a person of faith," said Mayor Jones. "A very strong person of faith and so I'm comforted by the fact that we know where he is."
Justice Hassell's funeral will be held at Faith Landmark Ministries on Chamberlayne Avenue this Saturday. So far, an exact cause of death for the 55-year-old hasn't been released.