News and Information
June 28, 2021

Virginia’s Seventh Constitution Celebrates 50th Anniversary

On July 1, 2021, Virginia will mark the golden anniversary of its seventh Constitution, signed into effect on July 1, 1971. Of the 12 men who worked to draft the Constitution, 11 were Virginia lawyers, including Supreme Court of the United States Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., civil rights icon Oliver W. Hill, and Albertis S. Harrison Jr., the 59th governor of Virginia who also served on the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Virginia has had seven different Constitutions in its history, with the first taking effect in 1776, and the most recent taking effect on July 1, 1971. Prior to the current Constitution, Virginia had not had a new version since 1902, a document that was rooted in the Jim Crow era. In 1968, Governor Mills E. Godwin Jr. asked the General Assembly to create a commission to revise the Constitution to reflect a modern Virginia and the societal changes and accompanying laws that took effect during the 1960s.

Constitutional law expert A.E. Dick Howard, a professor in the University of Virginia School of Law, served as executive director of the Commission on Constitutional Revision beginning in 1968. 

In a recent article with the university he commented, “I consider Virginia to have been well served by the likes of Lewis Powell and Oliver Hill. Like the framers of 1787, they have handed us good constitution. Mulling its achievements and shortcomings offers an opportunity for an exercise in self-government by a free people.”1

The Library of Virginia has created a document with an overview of the Virginia Constitution from 1776 through 1971 that may be read here.

Caption: Seated left to right: Alexander M. Harman Jr., Colgate W. Darden Jr., Albertis S. Harrison Jr., Davis Y. Paschall, Theodore Roosevelt “Ted” Dalton, and Oliver W. Hill.

Standing: J. Sloan Kuykendall, Albert V. Bryan Jr., Lewis F. Powell Jr., Hardy C. Dillard, George M. Cochran, and A. E. Dick Howard. Photo courtesy of the University of Virginia Law Library Collection.


1 Fox, Mike. "50 Years After Leading Constitution's Revision, Professor Reflects on Changes." University of Virginia School of Law. November 11, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2021. https://www.law.virginia.edu/news/202011/50-years-after-leading-constitutions-revision-professor-reflects-changes.

 

Updated: Jun 28, 2021