Virginius Dabney

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Virginius Dabney
Born February 8, 1901
Charlottesville, Virginia
Died December 28, 1995(1995-12-28) (aged 94)
Richmond, Virginia
Occupation Teacher, journalist, writer, editor
Spouse(s) Douglas Harrison Chelf (1923 - 1994, her death)[1]
Children 3
Parent(s) Richard Heath Dabney (father)
Lily Heth Davis Dabney (mother)

Virginius Dabney (February 8, 1901 – December 28, 1995) was a US teacher, journalist, writer, and editor. He was the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 1936 to 1969 and author of several historical books. He won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1948 due in part to his opposition to the poll tax.[2]

Youth, education

Virginius Dabney was born on February 8, 1901 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, where his father, Richard Heath Dabney, was a professor of history.[3] His mother was a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his father was the son of a Confederate veteran. He was educated at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia and at the University of Virginia, where he was a brother in the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (Eta chapter). He resided at the Dabney-Thompson House until his father sold that home in 1907.[4]

Teacher, journalist, editor

After teaching for a year at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, in 1922, he went to work in Richmond, Virginia as a journalist at the The Richmond News Leader, which was then edited by Douglas S. Freeman. During this period he was also Virginia correspondent for the Baltimore Evening Sun, where he came to the attention of H.L. Mencken. In 1928, he left The News Leader for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where he became Chief Editorial Writer in 1934, and editor in 1936. During his time with the Richmond Times-Dispatch Dabney also served as the Upper South correspondent for the New York Times.[1]

As editor, he was responsible for the editorial page. He editorialized against Adolf Hitler and in favor of wage and hour laws for women. He was, for his time, a progressive, and at times a liberal voice, opposing the Ku Klux Klan and the poll tax. He was not afraid to take on the Byrd Organization, a political machine of Governor (and later Senator) Harry F. Byrd that dominated Virginia's politics from the late 1920s until 1969.[1] He was also known for opining on less-serious topics, such as the death of Ellen Glasgow's dog,[5] and on the qualities of grits and mint juleps.[6] He served on the Southern Policy Committee and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. In 1948, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1957–58. He was also a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1940 to 1942.[7]

On March 1, 1952, Dabney guest starred on the CBS live variety show, Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town, in which hostess Faye Emerson visited Richmond to accent the kinds of music popular in the city.[8]

In the 1950s, Dabney's editorials took on a more conservative tone. Although he was personally opposed to Massive Resistance against desegregation of Virginia's public schools, the owners of the Times-Dispatch did not allow him to editorialize against it. He was offended by the student activists of the 1960s, and was ambivalent about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he admired for his courage but disdained for his "trouble-making" and what Dabney termed "unfair" attacks on the Vietnam War.

Author, retirement

Dabney retired from the Times-Dispatch in 1969. He wrote several books, notably including Virginia: The New Dominion, Richmond: The Story of a City, and The Jefferson Scandals, a Rebuttal, which was a refutation of the Sally Hemings allegations. He died on December 28, 1995 at his home in Richmond at the age of 94.


The following are books by Virginius Dabney.

  • The Patriots (editor)
  • Liberalism in the South (1932)
  • Below the Potomac (1943)
  • Dry Messiah: The Life of Bishop Cannon (1949, a revised edition of an unpublished 1929 text)
  • Virginia: The New Dominion (1971)
  • Richmond: The Story of a City (1976)
  • Across the Years: Memories of a Virginian (1978)
  • Mr. Jefferson's University. University Press of Virginia. 1981.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Jefferson Scandals: A Rebuttal (1981)
  • The Last Review: The Confederate Reunion, Richmond, 1932 (1984)
  • Virginius Dabney's Virginia: Writings about the Old Dominion (1986)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: A Sesquicentennial History (1987)
  • Pistols and Pointed Pens: The Dueling Editors of Old Virginia (1987)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Morris Nitschke, Marie. "Virginius Dabney (1901–1995)". Encyclopedia Virginia/Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Retrieved June 15, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Virginius Dabney, 94, Southern Writer Who Fought Segregation". New York Times. December 29, 1995.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Dr. Dabney Dies; Famous Va. Professor". Washington Post. May 17, 1947. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. unknown (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Dabney-Thompson House" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The Lively Lives of Two Localities". Virginia Quarterly Review. Summer 1977.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Mint Juleps". Life Magazine. June 17, 1946.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town". Classic Television Archives. Retrieved September 2, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links