Charles Minor Blackford (17 October 1833–10 March 1903), attorney, was born in Fredericksburg, the third of six sons and fourth of eight children of William Mathews Blackford and Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford. Plagued by a weak constitution and poor eyesight, he had a difficult childhood and did not begin school until age eleven.
Blackford attended school in Fredericksburg until the family moved to Lynchburg in 1846, where he continued his education under several tutors. He matriculated at the University of Virginia in October 1850, entered its law school three years later, and received his law degree on 29 June 1855. Shortly after graduation Blackford opened a Lynchburg law office with William Tudor Yancey on 1 August 1855. After they dissolved their partnership in 1857, Blackford practiced alone until 1861. On 19 February 1856 he married Susan Leigh Colston, of Albemarle County. They had four sons and two daughters.
Although his family opposed secession during the winter of 1860–1861, Charles Blackford and his four surviving brothers, including Launcelot Minor Blackford and William Willis Blackford, served in the Confederate army. He volunteered on 13 May 1861 and became a lieutenant in Company B of the 2d Regiment Virginia Cavalry. Elected captain of his company on 27 August 1861 and reelected in April 1862, Blackford served in many of the major engagements of the war, including the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, and the fighting around Fredericksburg later that year. In December 1862 his legal experience led to his appointment as a judge advocate. In 1863 he was appointed judge advocate general of the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, and served in that capacity until late in 1864, when he was assigned to duties in Richmond.
Blackford was the first lawyer to reopen his office in Lynchburg after the war. A firm that he started with Thomas J. Kirkpatrick in 1866 endured until 1895. Blackford was a highly respected and successful corporate lawyer who represented railroads throughout the state. He served as a counsel and board member of the Virginia Midland Railway and personally crafted the legal documents that led to its reconstitution as part of the Southern Railway in 1895. His arguments on appeal were credited with the development of several important precedents in Virginia corporate law. Blackford was a founder of the Virginia State Bar Association, served on its first executive committee, and was elected president in 1894. In his presidential address he called for the better education of attorneys and for all attorneys and judges to keep up their interests in literature and history, which he believed would make them better practitioners, better advocates, and better civic leaders.
Blackford was a leading citizen in postwar Lynchburg. He became president of the Peoples Savings Bank in 1874 and continued as president when it became the Peoples National Bank, serving from 1882 until his death. He also served a term as president of the Lynchburg Bankers' Association. From 1869 until 1881 he was city attorney for Lynchburg and published two compilations of city ordinances. A member of the Episcopal Church, Blackford was vestryman of Saint Paul's Church in Lynchburg and for many years regularly attended church conferences as a parish delegate. A research and writing project in which he took special pride was his forty-page Historical Sketch of the Book of Common Prayer (1893).
A popular public speaker, Blackford talked often on religious topics, the law, and the Civil War. After he lost most of his hair he delivered a humorous oration on baldness that a friend described as "a conglomeration of all that is grotesque, clever and witty" on that subject. The Civil War was his recurring theme. One of Blackford's longest public addresses became a short book, Campaign and Battle of Lynchburg (1901). His most enduring work was an edition of his wartime letters and other family material that his wife had printed in a very limited edition as Memoirs of Life In and Out of the Army in Virginia During the War Between the States (1894–1896; reprinted 1996) and that their grandson reissued in a 1947 abridgement as Letters from Lee's Army.
Blackford never entered electoral politics. Like his father he was a Whig as a young man. He became a Democrat after the Civil War, but during the 1896 presidential campaign he split from the party because of its endorsement of the free coinage of silver. In 1895 Blackford formed a new law partnership with his son Raleigh Colston Blackford and John D. Horsley. After the turn of the century his eyesight again deteriorated, and he was nearly blind at the time of his death. Charles Minor Blackford died of pneumonia at his house in Lynchburg on 10 March 1903 and was buried in the family plot at Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg.
Blackford Family Collection, including Blackford's Civil War letters, Jones Memorial Library, Lynchburg; Charles Minor Blackford Sr. and Thomas Jellis Kirkpatrick Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers (1861–1865), War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; Robert J. Driver, 2nd Virginia Cavalry (1995), esp. 196; Virginia Case Files for United States Pardons (1865–1867), United States Office of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94, NARA; Blackford's presidential address and his "The Trials and Trial of Jefferson Davis" in Virginia State Bar Association Proceedings (1895): 145–173 and 13 (1900): 231–274; obituaries and editorial tributes in Richmond News Leader, 10, 12 Mar. 1903, and Richmond Times Dispatch, 11 Mar. 1903; memorial in Virginia State Bar Association Proceedings (1903): 67–74 (portrait opp. 67), reprinted in Louise Pecquet du Bellet, Some Prominent Virginia Families (1907; repr. 1976), 1:189–194.
Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Kevin Conley Ruffner.
How to cite this page:
>Kevin Conley Ruffner,"Charles Minor Blackford (1833–1903)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 1998 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Blackford_Charles_Minor, accessed [today's date]).
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