James Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986)


J. Lindsay Almond Jr. was a governor of Virginia (1958–1962) whose name became synonymous with Massive Resistance, the legislative effort used to prevent school desegregation in light of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Supreme Court of the United States ruling in 1954. A Democrat and member of the Byrd Organization, Almond is famous for closing public schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Front Royal in 1958 rather than integrating them. When the state and federal courts declared his actions illegal, Almond submitted, thus effectively ending the era of Massive Resistance to desegregation in Virginia.

James Lindsay Almond Jr. was born in Charlottesville on June 15, 1898. From a young age, he showed an interest in oratory and politics. By the time he was sixteen, he was making speeches on behalf of local political candidates, a practice that would eventually bring him to the attention of the powerful Democratic United States senator Harry Flood Byrd (1887–1966).

James Lindsay Almond

After finishing law school in 1923, Almond worked briefly as a private-practice trial lawyer in Roanoke before becoming assistant commonwealth’s attorney. In 1933, he received his first judgeship on the Hustings Court of the city of Roanoke, which was almost certainly a reward for Almond’s campaign efforts in Harry Byrd’s successful 1925 gubernatorial bid. From the bench, Almond fought against election fraud, illegal liquor sales, and, most surprisingly, the unequal treatment given to whites and African Americans by juries. 

During this time, Almond also took an active part in state and national politics, joining first in Byrd’s 1925 gubernatorial campaign and then in the Democratic presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. He first ran for Congress in 1945, following the unanticipated resignation of the sixth district representative Clifton Woodrum. After a swift campaign and landslide election, Almond was sworn in on February 4, 1946. During his congressional term, Almond participated in the debates on such major legislative efforts as the Marshall Plan and the Taft-Hartley Act, both of which he vigorously supported. In April 1948, he unexpectedly became attorney general of Virginia following the death of his predecessor, Harvey Black Apperson. Byrd specifically requested Almond for the job, since he knew that Almond’s speaking skills would be a vital asset in the Democrats’ 1949 gubernatorial campaign. 

J. Lindsay Almond Jr.

Almond’s tenure as attorney general and most of his term as governor were dominated by one issue: school desegregation. By the time Almond ran for governor in 1957, Virginia was in the midst of a widespread effort to maintain segregation in its public schools. Almond won the election by pledging to uphold what became known as the Massive Resistance movement. In September 1958, he made good on a promise of his predecessor Thomas B. Stanley when he closed schools in Charlottesville, Front Royal, and Norfolk rather than see them desegregated. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, however, overturned the school-closing law on January 19, 1959, the same day that the federal district court in Norfolk made a similar ruling. Despite last-minute appeals from Almond, the closed schools reopened to an integrated student body. By early in 1960, Almond retreated from his previously unyielding stance on desegregation, separating himself from the still-vociferous Massive Resisters in the Byrd Organization. He allowed Virginia schools to integrate, but only with token efforts that maintained the spirit of segregation (a strategy the historian Robert A. Pratt has called “passive resistance”). In its 1968 decision Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County et al., the U.S. Supreme Court declared that this approach was also illegal. Almond left office in 1962 and served on the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals from June 1963 until his death on April 14, 1986, at the age of eighty-seven.

June 15, 1898
James Lindsay Almond Jr. is born in Charlottesville.
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. finishes law school at the University of Virginia.
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. campaigns for Harry F. Byrd's bid for the governorship of Virginia.
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. campaigns for Al Smith's Democratic presidential campaign of 1928.
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. campaigns for Franklin D. Roosevelt's Democratic presidential run.
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. becomes a judge on the Hustings Court of The City of Roanoke.
February 4, 1946
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. wins a landslide election and is sworn in as a congressman for Virginia's sixth district.
April 1948
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. becomes attorney general of Virginia.
January 11, 1958
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. begins his term as governor of Virginia.
September 4, 1958
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. divests superintendents of Virginia schools of their authority to desegregate their schools; he also advises that if they go against his order they will be found in violation of Virginia laws.
September 14, 1958 to 1959
Lenoir Chambers campaigns vigorously against Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr.'s decision to close the schools of Norfolk to prevent integration.
September 15, 1958
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. closes Warren County High School, the first school held in violation of his statewide mandate against desegregation.
September 19, 1958
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. closes Lane High School and Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville to prevent desegregation.
September 27, 1958
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. orders white secondary schools in Norfolk to close to prevent desegregation.
January 19, 1959
Both the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court overturn the decision of Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. to close schools in Front Royal, Charlottesville, and Norfolk.
February 2, 1959
With Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr.'s barrier to desegregation broken by Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals, seventeen Black students in Norfolk and four in Arlington County peacefully enroll in white schools.
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. retreats from his hard-line stance and allows all Virginia schools to passively resist desegregation through token integration.
June 1963 to April 14, 1986
J. Lindsay Almond Jr. sits on the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.
May 27, 1968
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia, that the New Kent School Board has to "convert promptly to a [school] system without a 'white' school, and a 'Negro' school, but just schools." The ruling quickens the pace of desegregation in Virginia.
April 14, 1986
Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. dies of heart failure and is interred in Evergreen Burial Park in Roanoke.
  • Almond, Lindsay. “Oral History Interview by Larry J. Hackman, recorded on February 7, 1968.” By Larry Hackman. John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Project (February 1968).
  • Beagle, Ben. J. Lindsay Almond: Virginia’s Reluctant Rebel. Roanoke: Full Court Press. 1984.
  • Hershman, James H. “Almond, James Lindsay.” In The Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone et al., 107–110. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
  • Lassiter, Matthew, and Andrew Lewis. The Moderates’ Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998.
  • Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954–89. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1992.
APA Citation:
Eskridge, Sara & Wolfe, Brendan. James Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/almond-james-lindsay-jr-1898-1986.
MLA Citation:
Eskridge, Sara, and Brendan Wolfe. "James Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 19 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2022, April 21
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