A Williamsburg man who broke racial barriers by becoming one of the first black judges in Virginia is being honored for his contributions, even in death.
Judge William T. Stone died on Jan. 18, 2018 following a long life of service in the public eye.
He was 87 years old.
On Feb. 7, Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia honored seven African-American leaders during the annual “Strong Men & Women in Virginia History” awards program in Richmond, according to a news release from Dominion.
One of those honorees was Stone, who rose to the position of judge by the 1970s.
“These honorees have persevered through struggles and challenges to become members of the armed forces, authors, community leaders, educators, judges and politicians,” said Bill Murray, senior vice president of corporate affairs & communications at Dominion Energy. “They are a strong example for people who wish to serve their communities, and we are pleased to recognize them for their leadership and accomplishments.”
Before he became a lawyer and later a judge, Stone was an undertaker at a James City County funeral home. He worked at his aunt’s and uncle’s business, Whiting’s Funeral Home, on Pocahontas Trail, reinforcing his belief that all humans are created equal, and should be treated as such.
Stone’s career as an attorney began after he graduated law school at American University in 1962, according to an online biography. He first started practicing law in Newport News, but moved back to Greater Williamsburg about a year later.
In his early years serving as an attorney, Stone decided a right to a fair trial was just as important as giving the deceased a burial with reverence.
“Although he did not take on civil rights cases, he was a local advocate for the rights of African-Americans and women,” according to the biography.
In 1968, Stone was appointed to be a substitute judge in the Williamsburg-James City County General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts. During that time, he continued to practice law and operate his family’s funeral home.
He retired from being a judge in 1998, then retired from practicing law one year later.
Other people recognized during the Strong Men & Women in Virginia History awards program include:
- Kwame Alexander- writer and youth advocate, Fairfax County
- Lawrence A. Davies – minister and civic leader, Fredericksburg
- Fannie W. Fitzgerald (posthumous honor) – educator & elementary school supervisor, Prince William County
- Deanna Reed – mayor and mentor, Harrisonburg
- Gladys B. West – mathematician and educator, King George County
- Andrew J. White Sr. – minister and community activist, Petersburg
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Stone graduated from law school at William & Mary. He attended law school at American University, but was encouraged to pursue a legal career by a dean at William & Mary’s law school.