People say goodbye to Supreme Court Justice

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Saturday, State Supreme Court Justice Leroy Hassell will be laid to rest. Friday-- hundreds of people remembered the man who became the first black Chief Justice for Virginia. He lay in state in the rotunda of the capitol, where for six hours family and friends said their goodbyes.

State flags will fly at half staff until next Friday. Justice Leroy Hassell's tribute at the capitol was the first in 20 years.

On a Friday afternoon-- part of downtown jolted to a stop as a police motorcade escorted the remains of 55-year old Leroy Hassell from the capitol to the funeral home. Just hours before--- Deborah Mapp had a moment with her childhood friend.

"And one thing that always stood out about Judge Hassell, in my memory, was that he was a great debater," said Mapp.

Hassell turned his zeal for debate into a high-profile career.  A graduate of UVA and Harvard Law School, Hassell sat on the state supreme court for 20 years. In 2003 he became the first black chief justice in Virginia.

"He did a lot of good things for everybody while he was chief justice for the state of Virginia, and for that I can say, I am proud!" Mapp said.

Sandra Taylor's name, etched in the pages of the guestbook. She stood in admiration of the tribute to her friend. Our blue state flag draped along the casket, honor guard in their regal uniforms standing watch.

"An African-American is lying in state in the capitol, the rotunda of what used to be the capitol of the confederacy," Taylor said.

She says Leroy Hassell was a smart, personable and direct man. This black history month she knows people will honor his legacy.

"We just think that young people today will grow up and be able to say 'I want to be like Chief Justice Hassell,'" she said.

House and senate court committees are now working to fill Hassell's seat. We're hearing it could be a few months before a nominee is announced.

The funeral for Justice Hassell is Saturday, and is open to the public. It's being held at Faith Landmark Ministries, 8941 Chamberlayne Road in Henrico County. The service begins at noon, but those attending are asked to arrive by eleven.

Following the funeral, Justice Hassell will be laid to rest at Greenwood Memorial Gardens Cemetery. That's on Patterson Avenue just east of Route 288.

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