Bouldin, Wood (1838–1911)


Wood Bouldin, a Democratic Party stalwart, played a key role in disfranchising African Americans and poorer whites during the Convention of 1901–1902. Born in Charlotte County, he became an attorney and served as a Confederate artillery officer during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Settling in Halifax County after the war, he became an attorney and Democratic Party leader. Halifax voters elected him to the convention called to write a new constitution for Virginia. Bouldin introduced a resolution that limited voting rights to literate property owners and jury duty to registered voters. He also gave a long speech that defending the right of the convention to put the constitution into effect without approval by the voters.

Wood Bouldin (1811—1876)

Bouldin was born on September 28, 1838, in Charlotte Court House, the son of Wood Bouldin (1811–1876) and his first wife, Maria Louisa Barksdale Bouldin. His father was a prominent attorney, member of the Convention of 1861, and a judge of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1872 until his death.

Bouldin’s education began at Rough Creek Church in Charlotte County. He attended the University of Virginia from 1855 to 1857 and returned for one year in 1859 to study law with James P. Holcombe and John B. Minor. Bouldin began the practice of law with his father in Boydton, but on September 23, 1861, he joined the Staunton Hill Artillery and served as a second lieutenant during the Civil War. Afterward he practiced law in Charlotte, Halifax, and Mecklenburg counties until 1871, when he moved to Richmond. There he practiced in partnership with his father and Hunter H. Marshall and later with James Alfred Jones until 1879. On December 9 of that year he married Florence H. Easley, daughter of James S. Easley, of Halifax County. Bouldin resided for the rest of his life in that county’s seat of Houston, later called Halifax. He and his wife had three sons and three daughters.

Constitutional Convention of 1900–1901

  • No White Man to Lose His Vote in Virginia.
    No White Man to Lose His Vote in Virginia.

    In this 1901 broadside, Democratic leaders reassure white men in Virginia that proposed amendments to the state constitution will not strip them of their voting rights. The Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902 produced the Constitution of 1902 and is an important example of post-Reconstruction efforts to restore white supremacy in the American South by disfranchising large numbers of blacks. The convention was dominated by Democrats, including state party chairman, J. Taylor Ellyson; the convention's president, John Goode; and the party's gubernatorial candidate, Andrew J. Montague, all of whom are quoted here. Goode emphasized that the party "is pledged in its platform to eliminate the ignorant and worthless negro as a factor from the politics of this State without taking the right of suffrage from a single white man." Despite such assurances, many working-class whites were effectively disfranchised by the Constitution of 1902.

  • Members and Officers of The Constitutional Convention of Virginia
    Members and Officers of The Constitutional Convention of Virginia, Richmond—1901–'2

    Individual portraits of the 100 delegates elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902, the administrative staff for the convention, and members of the press covering the proceedings are arrayed around a photograph of the State Capitol in Richmond. This grouping was created by Foster's Photographic Gallery, which faced Capitol Square.

  • The Constitutional Convention. Help Save Our Public Schools.
    The Constitutional Convention. Help Save Our Public Schools.

    A broadside produced by the Negro Educational and Industrial Association of Virginia urges citizens to attend a meeting at Richmond's Mount Zion Baptist Church on May 3, 1901, to discuss "the saving of our public schools and other matters of grave importance to be brought before the Constitutional Convention" of 1901–1902. The constitution that emerged from the convention effectively disfranchised most black voters and reaffirmed segregated public schooling. For decades after, there was an increasingly wide gap between expenditures for white and black schools in Virginia.

  • Virginia Constitutional Convention 1901—1902
    Virginia Constitutional Convention 1901–1902

    This is the leather cover of a volume of photographs featuring the delegates to and officials of Virginia's Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902. The book features 111 portraits made by Foster's Photographic Gallery in Richmond. The name of Hill Carter, who represented Hanover County at the convention, is embossed on the bottom half of the cover; this book likely belonged to him.

Bouldin was active in Democratic Party politics in Halifax County for many years and was a longtime member of the State Democratic Central Committee. He campaigned unsuccessfully to represent Charlotte and Halifax counties in the Convention of 1867–1868. Bouldin attended the 1884 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In May 1901 he and Joseph Stebbins were elected without opposition to represent Halifax County in a state constitutional convention. Bouldin served on the Committees on Rules and on the Organization and Government of Cities and Towns. He also sat on the important Committee on the Elective Franchise and introduced a resolution to restrict the suffrage to literate property owners and to limit jury service to registered voters. Bouldin’s proposal was one of many intended to reduce the number of black Virginians permitted to vote and to keep African Americans out of important public offices and off juries. The restrictive suffrage article that the convention adopted on April 4, 1902, included some of his language. On the important question of whether to call a referendum to ratify the proposed constitution, Bouldin made one of the longest speeches (and the one based on the most legal research) defending the right of the convention to put the constitution into effect without approval by the voters. Bouldin missed the final vote against a referendum on May 29, 1902.

After the convention, Bouldin returned to the quiet practice of law in Houston, but in 1905 he succeeded William Leigh as commonwealth’s attorney after Leigh moved from Halifax County. Bouldin subsequently won election to a full term and was a candidate for reelection when he died suddenly at his home on April 11, 1911. He was buried the following day in the graveyard at nearby Saint John’s Episcopal Church.

September 28, 1838
Wood Bouldin is born in Charlotte Court House to Wood Bouldin (1811—1876) and Maria Louisa Barksdale Bouldin.
Wood Bouldin (1838—1911) returns to the University of Virginia to study law with James P. Holcombe and John B. Minor.
September 23, 1861
Wood Bouldin (1838—1911) joins the Staunton Hill Artillery. He serves as a second lieutenant during the Civil War.
Wood Bouldin (1838—1911) moves to Richmond, where he practices law in partnership with Hunter H. Marshall and his father, Wood Bouldin (1811—1876).
Wood Bouldin (1838—1911) begins to practice law in Richmond in partnership with James Alfred Jones.
December 9, 1879
Wood Bouldin and Florence H. Easley, of Halifax County, marry. They will have three sons and three daughters.
Wood Bouldin attends the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
May 1901
Wood Bouldin and Joseph Stebbins are elected without opposition to represent Halifax County in the constitutional convention set to convene in Richmond.
June 12, 1901—June 26, 1902
An elected body of 100 delegates convenes in Richmond for a constitutional convention, and debates for almost a year.
Wood Bouldin succeeds William Leigh as commonwealth's attorney in Halifax County.
April 11, 1911
Wood Bouldin dies suddenly at his home in Houston, Halifax County.
April 12, 1911
Wood Bouldin is buried in the graveyard at Saint John's Episcopal Church in Halifax County.
  • Holt, Wythe W. Virginia’s Constitutional Convention of 1902. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990.
  • Tarter, Brent. “Bouldin, Wood.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 122–123. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
APA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. Bouldin, Wood (1838–1911). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bouldin-wood-1838-1911.
MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. "Bouldin, Wood (1838–1911)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 21 Sep. 2021
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