Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Constitution

Members of the Commission on Constitutional Revision, 1968-1970: (seated) Alexander M. Harman Jr., Colgate W. Darden, Albertis S. Harrison, Davis Y. Paschall, Ted Dalton, Oliver W. Hill; and (standing) J. Sloan Kuykendall, Albert V. Bryan Jr., Lewis F. Powell Jr., Hardy C. Dillard, George M. Cochran and A. E. Dick Howard. UVA Law Special
Members of the Commission on Constitutional Revision, 1968–1970: (seated) Alexander M. Harman Jr., Colgate W. Darden, Albertis S. Harrison, Davis Y. Paschall, Ted Dalton, Oliver W. Hill; and (standing) J. Sloan Kuykendall, Albert V. Bryan Jr., Lewis F. Powell Jr., Hardy C. Dillard, George M. Cochran and A. E. Dick Howard. UVA Law Special Collections

The current version of the Constitution of Virginia—the seventh in the commonwealth's long and proud history—became effective at noon on July 1, 1971. It replaced a regressive constitution that had been in place since 1902 and marked an important step forward for all Virginians. More than a blueprint for state government, it reflects our values as a commonwealth.

This page provides links to resources to learn more about the Constitution of 1971 and the ongoing role that it plays in the lives of all Virginians, as well as a listing of programs and events across the state commemorating the constitution's 50th anniversary.

Join us in celebrating the golden anniversary of Virginia's current constitution, and its advances in areas such as civil rights, local government, education, and environmental conservation. We invite you to engage in the conversation about how our constitution can help Virginians address the challenges of the 21st century.

Visitors can view digital images of Virginia's constitution and read a brief history of the Virginia Constitution from 1776—1971 via the buttons below.


January, 2021

Baliles Legacy Series Presentation: The Constitution of Virginia: Looking Back and Looking Ahead—An In–Depth Legal Analysis of the Commonwealth's Governing Document. January 22, 2021. Annual Meeting of the Virginia Bar Association.

Click the link to watch a recording of the presentation on YouTube.

February, 2021

WITH GOOD REASON, a podcast hosted by Virginia Humanities, featured a a segment on the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Constitution that aired on stations across Virginia in late February 2021. A recording of the program can be found at on their website. Scroll down to the last segment titles “Amending the Past.”

April, 2021

April 8, 2021

Looking Back, Looking Forward: The 50th Anniversary of the 1971 Rewriting of the Virginia Constitution

A conversation with Norfolk State University President Javaune Adams-Gaston, James Madison University President Jonathan Alger, University of Virginia law professor A. E. Dick Howard, and Justice Elizabeth McClanahan, president of the Appalachian School of Law, sponsored by James Madison University and Norfolk State University. To listen to the program recording visit the linked YouTube video.

April, 2021

On April 15, 2021, the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University held is annual Virginia Government Awards ceremony celebrating Virginians who have made noteworthy contributions to the practice of government and the welfare of our communities and citizens. Professor A. E. Dick Howard, professor of law at the University of Virginia, received the Hill–Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award for his work as principle drafter of the Virginia Constitution of 1971 and his work since advising governments around the world on drafting new constitutions. To view the awards ceremony see this YouTube video. Professor Howard’s remarks may be viewed at this YouTube video.

May, 2021


The results of the Virginia History Day competition were announced by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in early May. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Virginia constitution, a special A.E. DICK HOWARD PRIZE IN VIRGINIA CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY was awarded this year to a student entry that demonstrated superior understanding of Virginia's constitutional tradition and how the rights and duties of citizens and their government have changed over time. This award honors Professor A.E. Dick Howard of the University of Virginia School of Law, the executive director of Virginia's Commission on Constitutional Revision (1968–1971). Congratulations to Rithika Bhagavatula and Jordyn Krajewski, students at the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School and James River High School, for their project “Headlines and Bloodlines: The Role of Media in Inspiring and Infuriating America into Action.”

June, 2021

June 28th, 2021

"Laboratories of Democracy: The Importance of State Constitutions"

America's Town Hall, National Constitution Center

Participants: A.E. Dick Howard (Professor of Law, University of Virginia); Jeffrey Sutton (chief judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit); Emily Zackin (associate professor of political science, Johns Hopkins University); and Jeffrey Rosen (president and CEO, National Constitution Center).

A link to more details regarding this event, including a recorded presentation, is available for reference here.

July, 2021

June 29 – July 1st, 2021

Four Virginia Constitutions on Display

Original copies of four of Virginia’s constitutions, including the first constitution adopted in 1776, were on display at the Library of Virginia in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Constitution of 1971. To see the display and learn more about these special documents see

July, 2021

July 1st, 2021


Looking Back, Looking Forward: The 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Constitution

Library of Virginia Lecture Hall

Special in–person program focusing on the Constitution of 1971 with a panel discussion moderated by A. E. Dick Howard (Warner–Booker Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia and the former executive director of the Commission on Constitutional Revision, 1968–1970). Panelists will include Henry L. Chambers Jr. (professor of law, University of Richmond), Catherine Ward (University of Virginia School of Law, Class of 2022), and Brian Cannon (Director of Campaigns, Institute for Political Innovation). A recording of the program is available at

August, 2021

July 22 & 29 and August 2 & 3

Anne & Ryland Brown Teacher Institute: The 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Constitution

Registration required: here

(Online & Multiple Locations)

"The 50th Anniversary of the 1971 Virginia Constitution" is the theme of the Library of Virginia's 2021 Anne and Ryland Brown Teacher Institute, sponsored in partnership with Virginia Humanities. Teachers discover new digital resources and explore how to use primary sources to enhance student learning in their classrooms in this annual workshop. The one–day event will be held both virtually (August 2) and in person in Abingdon (July 22), Norfolk (July 29), and Richmond (August 3), offering tools, resources, and content to aid educators in teaching about the 1971 Virginia Constitution and its legacies. All events will include live Q&As with Library of Virginia staff members and guest speakers, such as legal scholar A. E. Dick Howard, the Warner–Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law at the University of Virginia. For more information, visit

September, 2021

September 23 and 30, 2021

An Academic Symposium on the 1971 Constitution of Virginia, hosted by the Journal of Law & Politics at the University of Virginia School of Law. Information will be made available at

October, 2021

October 7, 2021


Banner Lecture: “The Constitution of Virginia: Defining the Political Community,” by A. E. Dick Howard. Presented by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Learn more at


"He helped rewrite Virginia's constitution to guarantee Black voting rights — 'a blessing' 50 years ago" by Gregory S. Schneider, July 1, 2021, Washington-Post

"Virginia's Latest Constitution Turns 50: Voters Replaced 'Racist Document' in 1971." Virginia Business, by Mason Adams, June 30, 2021.
“Governor Northam Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Constitution” Press release, June 29, 2021.

"50 Years On, Virginia's Constitution Faces New Tests" by Ben Paviour, June 23, 2021 VPM News

"Library of VA Celebrating 50th Anniversary of Commonwealth's Constitution." WWBT News, June 16, 2021.

"50th Anniversary Commemoration: The Virginia Constitution of 1971 Empowered the State to Move Forward" Broadside No. 2 (Summer) 2021, pp. 6-7.

"The Political Community in Virginia: Suffrage Was Often At the Center of Virginia's Constitutional Convention Debates," by A. E. Dick Howard. Trend and Tradition. Summer 2021. pp. 60-67.

“Virginia’s Constitution Turns 50” Interview with Professor A. E. Dick Howard by Matthew Dewald. May 18, 2021 University of Richmond Magazine

"50th Anniversary of Virginia's Constitution," Virginia History and Culture (Winter/Spring 2021), pp. 14-18.

Jeff E. Schapiro, "Virginia's Constitution — 50 Years Young." Richmond Times–Dispatch, February 17, 2021.

A. E. Dick Howard, "J-Term: Virginia and the Constitution," Thoughts From the Lawn blog, February 14, 2021

Jordan G. Sisco, "Virginia Can No Longer Abide a Shadow Citizenry." Virginia Mercury, February 9, 2021.

Mike Fox, "50 Years After Leading Constitution’s Revision, Professor Reflects on Change," University of Virginia Law School media release, November 11, 2020.

A.E. Dick Howard, “The 1971 Constitution: Promoting the Common Benefit,” Richmond Times–Dispatch, December 26, 2020.

A.E.Dick Howard, “Virginia’s 1902 Constitution: The Era of Disenfranchisement,” Richmond Times–Dispatch, December 19, 2020.

Jean Hardiman, “Toward Greater Equality: In 1968-1970 Virginia’s Leading Legal Minds Came Together to Revise the Constitution,” VBA Journal (Fall 2020), pp.19-21.

A.E. Dick Howard, “50 Years On: Does Virginia’s 1971 Constitution Still Meet the Challenge,” VBA Journal (Fall 2020), pp. 17-18.

SPONSORS (to date)

Activities related to the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Virginia Constitution are generously sponsored by:


Special thanks to the organizing committee:

Trevor S. Cox, Committee Chair -- Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Erin Ashwell -- Office of the Attorney General of Virginia
David Bearinger -- Virginia Humanities
L. Preston Bryant -- McGuireWoods Consulting
Eric Claville -- Norfolk State University
Michael Davis -- James Madison University
R. Scott Dodson -- Library of Virginia Foundation
A.E. Dick Howard -- University of Virginia
Jessica Killeen -- Office of the Governor of Virginia
David Landin -- Virginia Bar Association
Adam Scher -- Virginia Museum of History & Culture
Jonathan Stubbs -- University of Richmond
Brent Tarter -- scholar of Virginia constitutional history
Sandra Gioia Treadway -- Librarian of Virginia