Author: Gregory Michael Dorr

a visiting assistant professor at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the author of Segregation's Science: Eugenics and Society in Virginia (2008)

Joseph S. DeJarnette (1866–1957)

Joseph S. DeJarnette was a physician and eugenicist who performed hundreds of involuntary sterilizations at Western State Hospital in Staunton. DeJarnette’s early career fit the reform ethos of the Progressive period and he modernized treatment of patients as superintendent of the hospital. He also began to advocate for forced sterilizations, which he believed would improve society. DeJarnette testified in the landmark case Buck v. Bell (1927), in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s sterilization statute. He took pride in the state’s aggressive approach to sterilization, but felt the state was not acting fast enough and publicly admired Nazi Germany’s more ambitious plan. DeJarnette defended sterilization and racial segregation until his death in 1957. In 2001 the General Assembly denounced and expressed regret over Virginia’s eugenics program.