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Our History: Featured Alumni: Prentis, Robert R., 1876

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, congressmen, ambassadors, educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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Robert Riddick Prentis

Chief Justice, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

Robert R. Prentis was born in 1855 at the University of Virginia, where his father was proctor of the university. His education was very scant because of the death of his father while Robert was still a boy. When just a very young man, he worked for a short time in the clerk’s office in Albemarle County, Virginia and from there entered the University of Virginia in 1875. After graduating with a law degree, he began his practice in Charlottesville in 1876. In 1878, however, he moved to Norfolk. He then moved to Suffolk in order to practice with A.C. Withers, and he remained there the rest of his life.

His first political office was as Mayor of Suffolk from 1883 to 1885. In 1894, he was elected Judge of the First Judicial Circuit of Virginia. He held that position until 1907 when he was appointed a member of the State Corporation Commission. In December 1916, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Appeals and, on March 10, 1926, became its first “Chief Justice.” Prior to this, the judge longest in continuous service was called “President” of the court. He was on the court until his death in 1931.

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