Honorary Virginians


At various times the Commonwealth of Virginia has voted to honor persons not resident in the state who have made signal contributions to Virginia’s history and culture. It is often erroneously stated that Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), was named an honorary Virginian. By a statute passed in 1785 entitled “An Act for the Naturalization of the Marquis De La Fayette,” the French-born general, who served with the Continental army in Virginia in 1780 and 1781 during the American Revolution and who was a prominent participant in the defeat of Charles Cornwallis, second earl Cornwallis, at Yorktown, was naturalized as a full citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, with “the most decisive mark of regard which a Republic can give.”

  • John Davison Rockefeller Jr. (1874–1960), of New York, by a joint resolution of the General Assembly adopted in 1942, was “acclaimed an honorary Citizen of Virginia” in recognition of “his appreciation of the verities which have permeated and sustained this Commonwealth, and … his desire to preserve them,” and for his work in restoring Williamsburg, Virginia’s colonial capital from 1699 to 1780.
  • Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, baroness Thatcher of Kesteven (1925–2013), a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, by a joint resolution of the General Assembly adopted in 1998, was declared an honorary citizen of Virginia in recognition of the fact that she had “worked tirelessly to strengthen the historic bonds of friendship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America” and had “striven continuously for economic and political freedom throughout the world,” as well as for her service as chancellor of the College of William and Mary from 1993 to 2000.
  • Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874–1965), a former prime minister of the United Kingdom who led the British to victory in World War II (1939–1945), by a joint resolution adopted in 2006, was posthumously declared an honorary citizen of Virginia on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of his address to the General Assembly, delivered in March 1946 in which he exhorted the American people to continue to stand together with the United Kingdom “in malice to none, in greed for nothing, but in defense of those causes which we hold dear not only for our own benefit, but because we believe they mean the honor and the happiness of long generations of men.”
  • Salmon, Emily J. and Edward D. C. Campbell Jr., eds. The Hornbook of Virginia History: A Ready-Reference Guide to the Old Dominion’s People, Places, and Past. Fourth Edition. Richmond, Virginia: The Library of Virginia, 1994.
APA Citation:
The Hornbook of Virginia History. Honorary Virginians. (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/honorary-virginians.
MLA Citation:
The Hornbook of Virginia History. "Honorary Virginians" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 18 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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