Thomas Bahnson Stanley was born in Henry County on July 16, 1890. In 1924 he founded the Stanley Furniture Company nd was a dairy farmer before turning to politics in 1930. He was a member of he House of Delegates from 1930 to 1946, serving as Speaker of the House from 942 to 1946. Before being elected governor, he served in the U.S. House of epresentatives from 1946 to 1953.
Early in his term as Virginia governor, the Supreme Court handed down the ontroversial Brown v. Board of Education decision to esegregate public schools. Stanley initially urged Virginians to accept the uling. It quickly became apparent, however, that white politicians in outhside Virginia, where the powerful‘s political base resided, would not accept esegregation under any circumstances. Stanley created a committee composed rimarily of Southside politicians to craft a response to the Brown decision. The resulting “Gray Plan,” named after the committee’s hairman, segregationist Garland Gray, of Sussex County, gave localities the choice to desegregate their schools but also rovided legislation that would allow those localities to skirt integration if hey wished. The Commonwealth, for example, would supply state-funded tuition rants to students who wanted to attend private—and therefore segregated—schools nstead of desegregated public schools.
At the same time, Stanley and the Democrats, who were heavily influenced by James J. Kilpatrick, editor of the Richmond News Leader, and Senator, were dopting the notion of interposition—an argument harkening back to the Virginia nd Kentucky Resolves of 1798 and John C. Calhoun’s support of nullification in he 1830s—that states could reject federal infringements on their overeignty. The combined popularity of the Gray Plan’s “local option” and the oncept of interposition encouraged Stanley and other Byrd Democrats to adopt a ore drastic strategy. A revised proposal, dubbed the Stanley Plan, erased the o-called “local option” on school desegregation and, instead, empowered the overnor to shut down any school in danger of being desegregated.
The Virginia General Assembly approved he Stanley Plan in 1956, and though Stanley declared that he would willingly lose desegregated schools as outlined in the plan, he never had to follow hrough on this promise. By the time the federal courts ordered schools in harlottesville to desegregate in 1958, Stanley had already left office. His successor,, did fulfill the promise of the Stanley Plan and closed the Charlottesville schools, along with schools in Norfolk and Front Royal. The school-closing statute of the Stanley Plan left thousands of irginia children without an education for several months. Ultimately, federal nd state courts ruled early in 1959 that the Stanley Plan, along with other assive Resistance laws, was unconstitutional. Thereafter, white Virginians ccepted minimal desegregation as a condition of keeping public schools open.
Following his term as governor, Stanley went on to become the vice president and irector of the First National Bank, as well as the chairman of the Commission n State and Local Revenues and Expenditures. He also continued his work as a urniture manufacturer. He died on July 10, 1970, in Martinsville and was interred in Roselawn Burial Park.