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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Anderson, William A., 1866

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

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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William Alexander Anderson

Member, Virginia House of Delegates

William Alexander Anderson was born in 1842 in Botetourt County, Virginia, the son of Francis T. Anderson, who served on the Virginia Supreme Court and was rector of Washington & Lee University. The younger Anderson was a student at Washington College when Virginia seceded in 1861, and he then enlisted in the Confederate Army. Anderson joined the Liberty Hall Volunteers, a group of Washington College students and alumni, who entered the war in early June 1861 as part of the Fourth Virginia Infantry Regiment under the command of Stonewall Jackson. A bullet shattered Anderson's kneecap at the Battle of First Manassas. The pants he was wearing, with the hole in the knee, have been on display in the museum at Washington & Lee University. After being discharged, he entered the University of Virginia in 1863 and received his law degree in 1866.

Anderson became a lawyer in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1867, and was nominated and elected state senator from the Rockbridge-Botetourt district from 1869-1873. In 1870, Anderson was credited with introducing the bill establishing the public school system of Virginia as put forth by Dr. William Henry Ruffner. He also served in the House of Delegates for three terms and was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention from 1901-1902, becoming the first attorney general under Virginia's new constitution, from 1902-1910. He was also a member of the Virginia Democratic Executive Committee for six years, was one of the United States Commissioners to the Paris International Exposition in 1878, and was president of the Virginia Bar Association in 1899. Anderson was Rector of Washington & Lee University from 1914-1923 and a member of its Board of Trustees from 1884 until his death in 1930. He was buried in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.


Papers of the Anderson Family, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.: