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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Rives, Alexander, 1829

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.

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Alexander Rives

Judge, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

Alexander Rives was born in Nelson County, Virginia in 1806. He attended Hampden-Sydney College from 1821 to 1825 and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1828. At that time Rives was admitted to the bar and entered private practice. He was a member of the state convention of 1850–51, the House of Delegates in 1852–53, and the Virginia State Senate in 1859–61. Three of his brothers also served in the General Assembly. Rives opposed the secession of Virginia. He served as the ninth Rector of the University of Virginia from 1865 to 1866. On December 19, 1866, he was elected as a judge on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and remained on the court until 1869.

In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Rives as judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. In 1878, Judge Rives took the controversial view that the exclusion of blacks from jury service in Virginia state courts was a violation of the Equal Protection rights of two criminal defendants, granting their petitions for habeas corpus relief. This position was later overruled by the Supreme Court. Judge Rives retired in 1882 and died in 1885.

Papers of Alexander Rives, MSS 38-216, in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

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