The Library of Virginia

Taking Office:  Inaugurations of Virginia's Governors

The Taking Office exhibition was on display in the lobby of the Library of Virginia from October 29, 2001 through June 22, 2002.

Virginia State Capitol

On Saturday, January 12, 2002, the commonwealth of Virginia will mark the inauguration of its three highest elected officials-the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general.  Witnessing the event will be both houses of the General Assembly, a large company of invited guests, and members of the news media.  Chances are that the weather on this first Saturday after the second Wednesday in January will be cold.  In a ceremony that has not changed significantly in almost a century, the new governor and his colleagues will take an oath of office to support and defend the state's constitution and to execute the laws of the commonwealth.  But Virginia's governors have not always staged a public inauguration and the celebrations that now are familiar. Taking Office:  Inaugurations of Virginia's Governors documents how the gubernatorial inauguration has evolved from a quiet ceremony to a public event. 

Between 1624 and 1776 Virginia's governors received their appointments from the British Crown. The king or queen appointed and authorized the governor to administer the colony according to the instructions sent by the Crown and its ministers.  The new governor or his deputy, the lieutenant governor, took the oaths of office in solemn ceremonies before members of the governor's Council, most often in the Council Chamber in the colony's Capitol.  Under the Virginia Constitution of 1776, the General Assembly elected a governor each year.  No person could be elected governor for more than three successive terms.  Virginia's governor acted only with the cooperation of the executive Council that the assembly also elected.  The inauguration ceremony consisted of a justice of the peace administering the oath of office.

Inaugurational Preparations

Photos courtesy of the Valentine Richmond History Center

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