Albertis Harrison

Albertis Sydney Harrison Jr. (January 11, 1907 – January 23, 1995) was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party associated with Virginia's Byrd Organization, he was the 59th Governor of Virginia in 1962–66, and the first governor of Virginia to have been born in the 20th century.[2]

Albertis Harrison
Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia
In office
October 23, 1968  December 31, 1981
Preceded byClaude V. Spratley
Succeeded byCharles S. Russell
59th Governor of Virginia
In office
January 13, 1962  January 15, 1966
LieutenantMills Godwin
Preceded byJ. Lindsay Almond
Succeeded byMills Godwin
28th Attorney General of Virginia
In office
January 13, 1958  April 20, 1961
GovernorJ. Lindsay Almond
Preceded byKenneth Patty
Succeeded byFrederick T. Gray
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 7th district
In office
January 14, 1948  January 8, 1958
Preceded byY. Melvin Hodges
Succeeded byJoseph C. Hutcheson
Personal details
Albertis Sydney Harrison Jr.

( 1907 -01-11)January 11, 1907
Alberta, Virginia, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 1995(1995-01-23) (aged 88)
Lawrenceville, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeOakwood Cemetery, Lawrenceville
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseLacey Virginia Barkley[1]
Alma materUniversity of Virginia (LL.B.)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
UnitU.S. Naval Reserve
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early life and education

Harrison was born in Alberta, Virginia, the son of Albertis Sydney Harrison and Lizzie, (née Goodrich).[3] He has been widely reported as related to Benjamin Harrison V who signed the Declaration of Independence and two United States presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, the 9th and 23rd Presidents.[2][4]

He received an LL.B degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1928.[1] Harrison married Lacey Virginia Barkley c.1940. They had two children,[1][2] Antoinette H Jamison and Albertis S. Harrison III and 6 grandchildren, Joseph D. Goodrich Harrison, Monica Harrison Kopf, Virginia Lacey Jamison, and James Carper Jamison II.

Harrison went into legal practice in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where he became town attorney, before being elected commonwealth's attorney of Brunswick County.[1]

He was elected to the Senate of Virginia in 1947. He served there for ten years, before being elected Attorney General of Virginia in 1957.[1][2]

Harrison resigned as Attorney General in April 1961 to run for Governor, winning election that November with 63.84% of the vote, defeating Republican H. Clyde Pearson. His administration increased educational financing for new schools and laboratories and raised teachers' pay. He promoted the development of state-supported colleges and technical schools as well as improved vocational training. He helped to modernize state banking laws to attract investment and accelerated highway construction.[2]

He sat on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, later renamed the Supreme Court of Virginia, from 1968 to 1981. In 1968 he chaired the Commission on Constitutional Revision that drafted the 1971 Constitution of Virginia.

Massive Resistance

Harrison in 1962

As Attorney General, Harrison was responsible for defending the state's resistance to school integration, as part of the Massive Resistance strategy endorsed and led by the state's political leader, United States Senator Harry F. Byrd.

Part of Massive Resistance involved the closing of public schools in various Virginia cities and counties to prevent racially integrated classrooms. Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (1952) was one of the companion cases to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), but the Supreme Court had left enforcement to the local federal district judge. Moreover, the Gray Commission of Byrd loyalists had recommended passage of various laws to avoid or delay integration. After opinions by the Virginia Supreme Court on January 19, 1959, as well as a three-judge federal panel overturned much of the new Virginia legislation, Governor J. Lindsay Almond (previously attorney general) and Harrison decided not to defy those courts and allowed schools in Arlington and Norfolk to reopen. However the schools in Prince Edward County closed in 1958 and did not reopen until 1963, as white students used tuition grants to attend a private segregation academy at state expense, while black students were left to volunteer efforts. Other problematic school closures, ultimately opened pursuant to federal court orders included those in Albemarle, Warren County and later New Kent County (the subject of the 1968 Supreme Court decision in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (1968). Harrison told the board to comply unless they were willing to risk prosecution. By this time, he, like a number of other Byrd Democrats, had concluded that obstinate resistance to integration could not continue.[2]

Another aspect of Massive Resistance involved new laws regulating attorney ethics, designed to attack practices of the NAACP, which was pursuing the desegregation actions. Initially, the U.S. Supreme Court deferred to an upcoming decision of the Virginia Supreme Court about those new ethics rules in Harrison v. NAACP (1959), but the case came before it twice more in NAACP v. Button (1963) (which was reargued after Harrison resigned as Attorney General to run for Governor, and which Virginia lost under attorney general Robert Young Button.


Harrison died of a heart attack at his home in Lawrenceville on January 23, 1995.[2] He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Lawrenceville, Virginia.[3]

The courthouse in Lawrenceville is named in his honor.


  1. "Virginia Governor Albertis S. Harrison Jr". National Governors Association. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  2. Saxon, Wolfgang (1995-01-25). "Albertis S. Harrison Jr., 88, Dies; Led Virginia as Segregation Fell". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  3. "Harrison, Albertis Sydney Jr". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  4. "Albertis S. Harrison Dies at 88". The Washington Post. January 25, 1995. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
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