Here are the remarks of the Chief Justice to the assembled judges of the Commonwealth last month in Norfolk.
He discussed the problem of the various programs and funding challenges, and then a bit about himself, since it will be his last judicial conference as the chief judge:
"I was born in Norfolk, at Norfolk Community Hospital, which is about 20 minutes from this hotel, adjacent to the campus of Norfolk State University.
I went to elementary school in Norfolk. Judge Jerrauld Jones and I were among 14 black kids who voluntarily integrated Lake Taylor Junior High School in Norfolk. I was one of the first in a group of students who was bussed across town in an effort to integrate the Norfolk public schools.
I attended church in Norfolk, and my great faith in God was birthed, developed, nurtured and matured in Norfolk. My parents met in Norfolk; they were married in Norfolk; and I was raised in Norfolk.
My grandmother, who was a widow with five children at the age of 20 – she was married, but her husband, after whom I was named, died unexpectedly – came to Norfolk in search of work because she had to support her children. She was a domestic worker, and she worked for a Norfolk lawyer whose name appears on probably more deeds of trust than any other lawyer in Virginia, that being Samuel White. He was very kind to my grandmother, and not only did he provide legal help to her, but he helped her acquire real property, which in turn improved her standard of living.
The first time I ever met a lawyer was in Norfolk, Judge Joseph Jordan, who was a member of the Norfolk City Council, and who later became the first black general district court judge in Norfolk.
I have many wonderful memories of Norfolk. I also had the pleasure of attending a hearing in which a young lawyer by the name of Henry Marsh successfully argued to the federal district court in Norfolk that in order to achieve meaningful integration, bussing was a necessary tool. Henry Marsh won his case, and henceforth, I and thousands of other Norfolkians who were enrolled in the public schools began the experiment of racial integration in our public school system.
Some of my mentors are also from Norfolk: Judge James Benton, who was the first judge of color on the Court of Appeals of Virginia, Justice John Charles Thomas, who was the first judge of color on the Supreme Court of Virginia. They were my mentors, they are my friends, and they encouraged me throughout my career. As a matter of fact, when I was a student at the Harvard Law School, John Charles Thomas, who was then a lawyer at Hunton & Williams, would regularly write letters to me. I guess he thought he was my older brother, and he made sure I was attending class and completing my studies."