Virginia politics, history, and everything you need to know about the Commonwealth.
The Best Little Bookstores in VirginiaHeartwood Books, 5 Elliewood Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903, (434) 295-7083 (off The Corner)
Prince Books, 109 E. Main Street, Norfolk (recommended by Barbara Klear)
Riverby Books, 606 Caroline St., Fredericksburg, Va
Barrister Books, 1 Lawyers Row, Staunton Va 24401, email@example.com (great quality used books – not law books)
Hiram Haines, #12 West Bank St., Petersburg Va 23803 (a must stop in Petersburg)
Downtown Books, 49 W Water St Suite B, Harrisonburg, Virginia (recommended by Joe Fitzgerald)
Give me have your nominations for other good ones, click here.
Best Bookstores Not in VirginiaLeonardtown, Md. – Fenwick St. Used Books – 41655A Fenwick St.
San Fransisco – City Lights – 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
Denver – The Tattered Cover – 1628 16th Street at Wynkoop in Denver, CO 80202.
Paris – Shakespeare and Company – 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris, France (by the Siene)
Seattle – Elliot Bay Book Co. – 101 S Main St, Seattle 98101
New York City – Strand Book Store — 828 Broadway, NY NY 10003 (@12 St., below Union Sq.)
Beaufort SC – McIntosh Book Shoppe – 917 Bay St
Deland FL – The Muse Book Shop – 112 S Woodland Blvd., DeLand, FL 32720
On-Line – If you really need to find it, Barnes and Noble has a new Rare & Collectible Books section
Virginia HistoryVirginius Dabney, Virginia, the New Dominion, Doubleday & Co: 1971- There may be more recent comprehensive histories of Virginia, but this was good enough for my Virginia history class at the U. Covers 400 years in 614 pages and does so very well.
Guy Fridell, What is it about Virginia?, DietzPress: 1966 – worth reading – short, lyrical essays about Virginia history and attitudes; too light a review of desegregation, however.
Virginius Dabney, Virginius Dabney’s Virginia: Writings about the Old Dominion, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 1986 – Some articles and excerpts from his books (many listed here) on Virginia and its history – good start, but read the books too.
Tim Lewis, The Virginiad, PWI: 2008. [An epic poem of 400 years of Virginia history. Really. I look forward to reading it. (Note – on page 583, that’s Chuck Robb, not Dobbs; and he was very distinguishable from Republicans.)]
Virginius Dabney, Richmond: The Story of a City, University Press of Virginia: 1990.
William L. Tazwell & Guy Friddell, Norfolk’s Waters: An Illustrated History of Hampton Roads, 2000.
Thomas C. Parramore, Norfolk: The First Four Centuries, Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1994.
Anne M. Whisnant, Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History, U.N.C. Press: 2006.content
Elizabeth Valentine Huntley, Penninsula Pilgimage, Payne Press: 1941 – “Delightsome ” — tour of Richmond, Tidewater and places in between with a one page summary and one photograph of each site. The main buildings haven’t changed, but I don’t know if all the houses remain.
Guy Fridell, We Began at Jamestown, Dietz Press: 1968 – Norfolk newspaper editor Fridell takes his family on a journey of Virginia historic locations – an interesting and well written tour of mostly familiar places, except this one was new to me.
Thomas Barden, Ed., Virginia Folk Legends, U.Va. Press: 1991- Interesting collection of tales collected between 1937 and 1942 by the WPA — southside and southwest Virginia well represented.
James Webb, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, Broadway Books: 2004 – Virginia figures prominently in this very readable account of who the Scots-Irish are, how they settled in western Virginia (and elsewhere), and their impact on American culture. The book also provides some insights as to the thoughts of our terrific senior Senator from Virginia.
Richard B. Drake, A History of Appalachia, Univ. Ky. Press: 2001- Relatively brief, but comprehensive, history of settlement, Indian conflict, Civil War, and development and change over the 20th Century.
Helen C. Roundtree, The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture, Univ. Oklahoma Press: 1989 – a very good “historical ethnography” (description of culture based on historical documents) of native Americans who lived in tidewater Virginia. The book uses as its source materials English observations, but focuses on native american society.
Ivor Noel Hume, The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to Jamestown, An Archaeological and Historical Odyssey, Alfred A. Knopf: 1994.
Lorri Glover & Daniel B. Smith, The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America, Holt: 2009. Interesting account of the ship sent to relieve the miseries of Jamestown, its shipwreck on Bermuda, and how its leaders made it to Virginia; the story inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
David A. Price, Love and Hate in Jamestown, John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation, Alfred A. Knopf: 2003 – well done discussion of the Jamestown settlement, focusing on a historically correct account of John Smith, Pocohantas and Powhatan.
William M. Kelso, Jamestown: Buried Truth, U.Va. Press; 2006.
Lee Miller, Roanoke: Solving the mystery of England’s lost colony, Jonathan Cape: 2000 – writing is a bit over the top, but excellent account of Elizabethan court politics and native -american dealings that doomed the colony.
Ivor Noel Hume, Martin’s Hundred, University Press of Virginia: 1991- Very good account by the Colonial Williamsburg archaeologist of the research and discoveries of this early (1618) settlement site which was decimated by Native American attack in 1622. See also APVA, Martin’s Hundred Sites. http://www.apva.org/resource/jt2000/martin.html
William Seale, Virginia’s Executive Mansion, Virginia State Library and Archives: 1988.
Pierre Marambaud, William Byrd of Westover 1674-1744, Charlottesville, Va.: 1971.
Joel Achenbach, The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West, Simon & Schuster: 2004 – Washington as post-presidency businessman and his effort the use the Potomac, and connecting canals to forge a trade route to the West. It didn’t work, of course, but he made a good try of it and the book is an excellent account of the tale. Check out the ruins at Great Falls Park.
Charles S. Sydnor, Gentlement Freeholders: Political Parties in Washington’s Virginia, UNC Press: 1952 – Electioneering in the 1700s, including a limited electorate, irregular voting days, pretending not to campaign, “swilling the planters with bumbo,” and public voting.
Fergus M. Bordewich, Washington: The Making of the American Capital, Amistad: 2008. Excellent account of the improbable location of the nation’s capital on the Potomac, focusing on the contributions of African Americans, and giving full credit to the determination of President Washington.
Michael Lee Pope, Hidden History of Alexandria, D.C., The History Press: 2011.
Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, Vintage Books: 2002 – Pulitzer Prize winning account of the founders and how they got along.
Garry Wills, James Madison, Times Books: 2002 – Good, brief history of the sometimes troubled presidency of Virginia’s own James Madison. War of 1812 and all that. On your next trip to C’ville, don’t forget to stop at the recently restored family home, Montpelier.
Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821 (Dover ed. 2005)
Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, New York: Vintage Books, 1996.
Edwin Morris Betts, Ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766-1824, American Philosophical Society, 1944.
Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder, Henry Holt: 1988 – My favorite Jefferson book – a fascinating view of the great man through his constant working and reworking of his house and estate. A pilgrimage to the site is required, but the book lets you see behind the walls. http://www.monticello.org/ Also, check out Jefferson’s retreat at Poplar Forest. http://www.poplarforest.org/ When last I was there, it was being restored – hopefully not overly restored.
Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Books: 2011 – A beautiful facsimile edition of Jefferson’s cut and paste of the life and moral teachings of Jesus Christ. (I won’t give away the ending, but I am sure it would displease certain Christians now, as much as it did then.)
Fawn M. Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, 1974. I tried to read it, but couldn’t take the speculative psycho-analysis.
Virginius Dabney, The Jefferson Scandals: A Rebuttal, Dodd, Mead: 1981 – Pre-DNA analysis response to Fawn Brodie’s claims about Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
William G. Hyland, Jr., In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal, NY: Thos. Dunne Books: 2009. [I’m not sure it’s productive to continue this debate.]
Melvin I. Urofsky, The Levy Family and Monticello 1834-1923; Saving Thomas Jefferson’s House, Thomas Jefferson Foundation: 2001.
Nick Taylor, The Disagreement, 2008 – [Historical fiction account of the Civil War and the University of Virginia].
Virginius Dabney, Mr. Jefferson’s University: A History, University Press of Virginia: 1991.
Thomas Perkins Abernathy, Historical Sketch of the University of Virginia, Richmond, Dietz Press: 1948.
Joseph L. Vaughan, Rotunda Tales: Stories from the University of Virginia, 1920-1960, U.Va. Alumni Ass’n: 1991 — Tales of the old U and the guys who the buildings are named after. Glad I attended at a more diverse time.
Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Short History, Univ. Illinois Press: 1995 – Very good brief history of the relatively obscure war that gave us the Star Spangled Banner, and battles in places like Niagara Falls, New Orleans (technically after the war was over), and Bladensburg, Md. The upcoming bicentenial offers a good time to understand and appreciate the conflict, including at nearby sites. http://www.chesapeake1812.org/.
Christopher P. George, Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay, White Maine Books: 2000 — A good account of the campaigns in the Bay area, including the burning of Washington.
Ralph E. Eshelman, et al., The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: A Reference Guide to Historic Sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press: 2010.
Ralph E. Eshelman, A Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press: 2011 – very portable guide with some background and 18 tours of sites in the Bay area.
Virginius Dabney, Pistols & Pointed Pens: The Dueling Editors of Old Virginia, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 1987. In the 19th century, Virginia had “newspapers” whose editors were as bitterly partisan as today’s TV commentators, although generally more literate. Interesting view of competing (and sometimes dueling) editors, primarily of Richmond and Tidewater papers.
Lenoir Chambers & Joseph Shanks, Saltwater and Printer’s Ink, Univ. of NC Press: 1967.
Alexander F. Robertson, Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart, Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1925
Civil War, see below.
C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1951.
Late 19th-20th Century and Recent Virginia PoliticsEdward Younger, Ed., The Governors of Virginia 1860-1978, U.Va. Press: 1982.
Jane Dailey, Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Post-Emancipation Virginia, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2000.
Eric Foner, Reconstruction – America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, HarpPeren: 1989.
Douglas R. Egerton, The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era, Bloomsbury Publishing: 2014.
Hamilton James Eckenrode, The Political History of Virginia During the Reconstruction, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore 1904 (Kessinger Reprint) – an interesting and relatively unbiased (considering the date) account of Virginia’s reconstruction and the Underwood Constitution.
Nelson M. Blake, William Mahone of Virginia: Soldier and Political Insurgent, Garret & Massie: 1935.
Pearson, The Readjuster Movement in Virginia, New Haven: 1917.
Brent Tarter, The Saga of the New South: Race, Law and Public Debt in Virginia, U.Va. Press; 2016.
Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction, Oxford Univ. Press: 1992.
Charles Allen Welsey Moger, Virginia, Bourbonism to Byrd 1870-1925, University Press of Virginia: 1968.
Charles E. Wynes, Race Relations in Virginia, 1870-1902, University Press of Virginia: 1961.
Raymond Pulley, Old Virginia Restored: An Interpretation of the Progressive Impulse, 1970-1930, Charlottesville: 1968.
E.F. Pat Striplin, The Norfolk & Western: A History, Norfolk & Western: 1981.
Gene Gottmann, Virginia in Our Century, Univ. Press of Virginia: 1969.
Virginius Dabney, Across the Years: Memories of a Virginian, Doubleday & Co.: 1978 [Memoir of Pulitzer prize-winning editor of the Richmond Times Dispatch and writer on Virginia history].
Raymond H. Pulley, Old Virginia Restored: An Interpretation of the Progressive Impulse, 1870-1930, Univ. of Virginia Press: 1968.
Journal of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-1902
Ralph C. McDaniel, The Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1900-1902, Johns Hopkins Press: 1928.
William L. Royall, Some Reminiscences, New York: 1909.
Andrew Buni, The Negro in Virginia Politics, 1902-1965, Charlottesville: 1967. Workman-like review of elections and numbers, somewhat lacking in understanding of the challenges facing black Virginians.
Virginius Dabney, The Last Review: The Confederate Reunion, Richmond, 1932.
William Larson, Montague of Virginia: The Making of a Southern Progressive, Louisiana State Univ. Press: 1965.
Henry C. Farrell, Jr., Claude Swanson of Virginia, University Press of Kentucky: 1985 – intensively researched and densely written biography of 5th District Congressman, Governor (1906-1910), US Senator, and FDR’s Secretary of the Navy. Apparently a self-described “Liberal Democrat,” Swanson is depicted as a free silver, pro-labor, Wilsonian internationalist, who at times was at odds with the Martin and Byrd organizations.
Jack Temple Kirby, Westmoreland Davis: Virginia Planter-Politician, U.Va. Press: 1968 – very interesting account of Davis who was a reform governor from 1918 to 1922 and an opponent of the Martin and Byrd organizations. He pioneered “progressive farming” methods, and you can visit his house and fields at Morven Park, Near Leesburg (right). http://www.morvenpark.org/history.htm
Virginius Dabney, Dry Messiah: The Life of Bishop Cannon, Alfred A. Knopf: 1949. Biography of the Pat Robertson of his day – Methodist Bishop James Cannon was an international leader in prohibition and other moral crusades, and in the 1910s had great influence in Virginia politics. Then came personal, financial, and political scandal.
James Cannon, Jr., Bishop Cannon’s Own Story: Life as I Have Seen It, Durham, NC: 1955.
Rixey Smith & Norman Beasley, Cater Glass: A Biography, New York: 1939.
James Edward Palmer, Jr., Carter Glass, Unreconstructed Rebel, Roanoke: Institute of American Biography, 1938.
Pippa Holloway, Sexuality, Politics and Social Control in Virginia, 1920-1945, UNC Press 2006.
Robert C. Glass and Carter Glass Jr., Virginia Democracy: A History of the Achievements of the Party and Its Leaders in the Mother of Commonwealths, The Old Dominion, Democratic Historical Ass’n: 1937. Three Illustrated Volumes – the first being a history of the Democratic Party of Virginia (and Virginia) and the other two short biographies of every Democratic leader in the Commonwealth.
Alden Hatch, The Byrds of Virginia, New York: 1969.
Ronald L. Heinemann, Harry Byrd of Virginia, University of Virginia Press: 2006. Excellent biography of Byrd and the anachronism he became.
Edwin P. Hoyt, The Last Explorer: The Adventures of Admiral Byrd, New York: 1968.
J. Douglas Smith, Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia, Univ. of North Carolina Press: 2002 – fascinating look at the period between the World Wars, when the paternalistic model of managed race relations broke down as the white establishment, instead of moving towards equality, increasingly mandated segregation. Good discussion of the enactment and enforcement of the racial purity laws of the 1920s and early civil rights court victories in the 1930s.
Alexander S. Leidholt, Editor for Justice: The Life of Louis I. Jaffe’, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Pres, 2002 [moderate Norfolk Virginian Pilot editor]
Kari A. Frederickson, The Dixicrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2001.
Heinemann, Ronald L., Depression and New Deal in Virginia: The Enduring Dominion, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983.
Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, compiled by the Workers of the Writer’s Program of the Works Projects Administration in the State of Virginia, Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1992 (originally published in 1940)
The Negro in Virginia, also published by the WPA Federal Writer’s Project. Reviewed here.
David Johnson, Douglas Southhall Freeman, Pelican: 2002 [Biography of Richmond News Leader editor and Lee biographer]
Virginia Moore, Virginia Is a State of Mind, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1943.
Virginius Dabney, Below the Potomac, New York: D. Appleton-Century: 1942.
Steven F. Lawson, Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South 1944-1969, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1976.
Guy Friddell, Colgate Darden, U.Va. Press: 1978 – Interviews with the only person to hold the two highest honors in the Commonwealth — Governor (1942-1946) and President of the University of Virginia (1947-1959). Darden was part of the Byrd organization, but was a man of courage and vision, and the book gives his candid recollections.
Robert A. Garson, The Democratic Party and the Politics of Sectionalism, 1941-1948, Baton Rouge, La: 1974.
Francis Pickens Miller, Man from the Valley: Memoirs of a 20th Century Virginian, Chapel Hill: 1971 – interesting but too brief first hand, and honest, accounts of Col. Miller’s brief tenure in the house of delegates, 1949 governor and 1952 senate races, and desegregation of Charlottesville schools. Surprisingly (to me), most of the book is an account of his life in service in two world wars, in national policy groups like the Council of Foreign Relations, at the State Department, and working progress through regional, national, and international christian groups (like the World Council for Churches).
William Bryan Crawley, Jr., Bill Tuck: A Political Life in Harry Byrd’s Virginia, University Press of Virginia: 1978 – Biography of Virginia Governor (1946-1950) and later Congressman; an interesting character (i.e. more personality that most Byrd leaders), but a strong opponent of labor unions and a strong proponent of segregation.
V.O. Key, Jr., Southern Politics, Vintage Books: 1949 – Every Sabato student knows Key’s description of Virginia as a “political museum piece.”
Frank Atkinson, The Dynamic Dominion: Realignment and the Rise of Two-Party Competition in Virginia 1945-1980, Rowman & Littlefield: 2006, 2nd Ed. – Very interesting review of elections during that critical period. Atkinson was an aide to George Allen, and the book is generally fair, although his viewpoint comes through in discussions of Linwood Holton and Henry Howell. Good use of unpublished materials such as interviews, thesis, and state Republican party archives.
J. Harvie Wilkinson, Harry Byrd and the Changing Face of Virginia Politics 1945-1966, U.Va. Press: 1968 – Possibly the best book on Virginia politics. Brilliant former UVa law professor and current federal 4th Circuit Judge Wilkinson did a wonderful job in interviewing the people who were there and explaining the rise and primarily the fall of the Byrd organization. (Wilkinson taught criminal procedure – I always remember his views on traffic stops – “what do you have in your glove compartment anyway? What are you worried about?”)
Steven F. Lawson, Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969, Rowman & Littlefield: 1999 [suffrage expansion from WWII to the end of the LBJ administration]
Oliver W. Hill, The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond: The Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr., Four-G Publishers: 2000.
Margaret Edds, We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow, U.Va. Press: 2018,
Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Brown v. Board of Education, A Brief History with Documents, Bedford/St. Martins: 1998.
Numan V. Bartley, The Rise of Massive Resistance: Race and Politics in the South during the 1950’s, Louisiana State Univ. Press: 1969.
Robert A. Pratt, The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia 1954-1989, Charlottesville, 2003.
Journal of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1956, Commonwealth of Virginia: 1956 – Proceedings of the convention called to amend Virginia’s Constitution to allow state funding for private schools, as part of the massive resistance plan to close the public schools.
James J. Kilpatrick, The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia, Chicago: 1957. [Richmond News Leader editor’s defense of segregation.]
Benjamin Muse, Virginia’s Massive Resistance, Indiana Univ. Press: 1961. Excellent chronological account of the rise and fall of massive resistance, written by a Manassas journalist, former Democratic State Senator, and Republican candidate for Governor (losing to Colgate Darden in 1941). It’s a very sincere and clear account.
Sarah Patton Boyle, The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian’s Stand in Time of Transition, New York: 1962. A very personal account of a white liberal’s support of desegregation, discussing her increasing acceptance by the black community and rejection by her white friends. Her thesis is that southerners were privately more ready for integration than they admitted, but lacked political leadership and personal courage to speak out.
Robbins L. Gates, The Making of Massive Resistance: Virginia’s Politics of Public School Desegregation, 1954-1956, Univ. of North Carolina Press: 1964. [Focuses on formulation of resistance legislation.]
Francis M. Wilhoit, The Politics of Massive Resistance, New York: 1973.
Bob Smith, They Closed Their Schools, Chapel Hill: 1965 (2008 Ed.). The “standard account” of the school closings in Prince Edward county. Written shortly after the events, so the author was able to interview the participants.
Kristen Green, Something Must Be Done about Price Edward County, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2015.
Reed Sarratt, The Ordeal of Desegregation, New York: 1966.
James W. Ely, The Crisis of Conservative Virginia, University of Tennessee Press: 1976. A very useful book (cites to unpublished thesis, personal papers, and interviews), but takes a disturbing “unbiased” view of massive resistance, failing to recognize the extraordinary injustice of the segregationist position. Its viewpoint is perhaps explained by the fact that it was written during the debates about busing for integration in the early-mid 1970s.
Andrew B. Lewis & Michael D. Lassiter (Eds.), The Moderates’ Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia, University Press of Virginia: 1998.
Alexander S. Leidholt, Standing before the Shouting Mob: Lenoir Chambers and Virginia’s Massive Resistance to Public School Integration, Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1997.
Bruce J. Dierenfield, Keeper of the Rules: Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987.
Ben Beagle & Ozzie Osborne (no, not that one), J. Lindsay Almond: Virginia’s Reluctant Rebel, Full Court Press: 1984 – biography of Virginia Attorney General and then Governor (1958-1962) who initially fought integration, but then accepted it, much to the chagrin of Senator Byrd. Awkwardly written, but has some information from interviews with Gov. Almond and his wife.
Fitzgerald Bemiss, The General Assembly 1955-1967.
Harry S. Ashmore, An Epitaph for Dixie, Norton: 1958.
Marshall W. Fishwick, A New Look at the Old Dominion, Harper: 1959.
Howard Carwile, Speaking from Byrdland, Lyle Stuart: 1960.
Benjamin Muse, Ten Years of Prelude: The Story of Integration since the Supreme Court’s 1954 Decision, New York: 1964.
C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, New York: 1966.
Robert Loevy, To End All Segregation: The Politics of the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Lanham Md: 1990.
Margaret Edds (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot journalist), Free at Last – What Really Happened When Civil Rights Came to Southern Politics, Adler and Adler: 1987 – [Overview of change in Southern politics since the Voting Rights Act was enacted].
M. Carl Andrews, No Higher Honor: The Story of Mills E. Godwin, Jr., Dietz Press: 1970 – a fawning and reactionary biography published in 1970, before Godwin’s unprecedented and undistinguished second term. No apologies for massive resistance, but appropriate credit for the sales tax, the community college system, the 1970 constitution, and ending pay-as-you-go.
Margaret Edds, We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow, University of Virginia Press: 2018.
Hon. Henry L. Marsh, III, with Jonathan K. Stubbs & Danielle Wingfiled-Smith, Eds., The Memoirs of Hon. Henry L. March, III, Civil Rights Champion, Public Servant, Lawyer, Granthouse Publishers: 2018.
M.V. Hood III, Quentin Kidd, Irwin L. Morris, The Rational Southerner – Black Mobilization, Republican Growth, and the Partisan Transformation of the American South, Oxford University Press: 2014.
Larry Sabato, The Democratic Primary in Virginia: Tantamount to Election No Longer, U.Va. Press; 1977 – Oh would that it still were. Dr. Sabato’s excellent brief account of Virginia political history from the turn of the century until the early 1970s is a must read.
Andy McCutcheon & Michael P. Gleason, Sarge Reynolds in the Time of His Life, Gleason Publishing: 1996 – A good recollection of Virginia’s JFK – the young, popular, moderate-progressive Lt. Governor, who left us well before his time.
C, Matthew West, A Time for Moderation: J. Sargeant Reynolds and VIrginia’s New Democrats, 1960-1971, Virginia Historical Society: 2019.
A.E. Dick Howard, Commentaries on the Constitution of Virginia, University Press of Virginia: 1974 – U.Va. Law Prof. Howard’s commentaries on the current (1971) Virginia Constitution.
Linwood Holton, Opportunity Time, U.Va. Press: 2008 – Memoir of first 20th century Republican Governor and father-in-law of Governor Kaine; an informal, but interesting book.
Harry F. Byrd, Jr., Defying the Odds: An Independent Senator’s Historic Campaign, self-published: 1998 — Byrd’s appropriately lightweight (100 page, large type) account of his 1970 campaign and victory as an independent. Byrd never admits that the reason why he didn’t run as a Democrat is that he thought he would lose, instead referring to some nonsense about a “loyalty oath.” He also manifests no apologies about massive resistance, reciting his attacks on the judiciary.
Garett Epps, The Shad Treatment, G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 1977 – Novel based on on Virginia politics, particularly Henry Howell (“Thomas Jefferson Shadwell”) and the 1973 election. Lots of fun trying to figure out who’s who.
Jack Bass & Walter De Vries, The Transformation of Southern Politics, Univ. Ga. Press: 1995. [Post WW2-1976]
Joel L. Hensley, Richard Obenshain: A Spirit of Fire, 2019 [a founder of the modern Virginia GOP]
Frank Atkinson, Virginia in the Vanguard, 1980-2006, Rowman & Littlefield: 2006 – Important and interesting, but too GOP partisan – ignoring impact of redistricting on the GA, hero-worship of Reagan/Allen, whining about Wilder’s press , etc. Already a bit dated in Obama-carried Virginia.
Jack Irby Hayes Jr., Dan Daniel and the Persistence of Conservatism in Virginia, Mercer Univ. Press, 1997 [Really? Someone actually wrote about this guy? – 20 years in congress and did nothing except provide a reliable right wing vote; refused to meet with UVa Student Counsel lobbyists too]
Donald P. Baker, Wilder: Hold Fast to Dreams, Seven Locks Press: 1989 – Biography of the always fascinating governor issued on the eve of his election.
Joe Jackson & William F. Burke, Jr., Dead Run: The Untold Story of Dennis Stockton and America’s only Mass Escape from Death Row, Times Books: 1999 – fascinating discussion of Virginia history, inside view of corrections issues, and the summer of 1984 (which I spent in Richmond), when the Briley Borthers were on the loose.
Dwayne Yancy, When Hell Froze Over: The Untold Story of Doug Wilder, A Black Politician’s Rise to Power in the South, Taylor Publishing: 1988 – very interesting behind the scenes look at Wilder’s 1985 successful campaign for Lt. Governor.
Margaret Edds, Claiming the Dream – The Victorious Campaign of Douglas Wilder of Virginia, Algonguin Books of Chapel Hill: 1990 – a chronicle of the 1989 Wilder campaign for Governor.
J.L. Jeffries, Virginia’s Native Son: The Election and Administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Purdue Univ. Press: 2000.
L. Douglas Wilder, Son of Virginia: A Life in America’s Political Arena, Lyons Press, Guildford CT: 2015.
Mark J. Rozell and Clyde Wilcox, Second Coming: The New Christian Right in Virginia Politics, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press: 1996.
Quentin Kidd, Ed, Government and Politics in Virginia: The Old Dominion at the 21st Century, New York, Simon & Schuster: 1999.
Rollie Winter, Ed Robischeaux, & S. Ann Robinson, Swing County, CreateSpace: 2012 – Story of grass-routes organizing for Barack Obama in Loudoun County in 2000.
Barnie Day & Becky Dale, Eds., Notes from the Sausage Factory, Brunswick Publishing: 2005 – Short essays from legislators and journalists on Virginia politics and government collected by a former member of the House of Delegates with a good sense of humor. Most written between 2001-2005 and some are a bit dated, but worth a skim.
Jim Webb, A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, Broadway Books: 2008 – experiences, philosophies, and public policy priorities from Virginia’s senior US Senator.
Brent Tarter, The Grandees of Government: The Origins and Persistence of Undemocratic Politics in Virginia, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press: 2014.
Jeff Thomas, Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century: the Price of Power, History Press, Charleston SC: 2016 – A criticism of “The Virginia Way,” sometimes justified, usually focusing primarily on the negative in politics and policy.
John H. Hagar (with Nancy P. Wheeler), Best Seat in the House, Dietz Press: 2017. [Autobiography of GOP Lt. Governor]
Brent Tarter: Gerrymanders: How Redistricting Has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia, U.Va. Press: 2019.
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography – published quarterly by the Virginia Historical Society (since 1893) — contains essays, edited primary documents, and book reviews on Virginia history and related topics.
Larry Sabato, Virginia Votes– Initially published in book form, these periodic election results and analysis are now available from the UVa Center for Politics, Reports page.
New and CurrentTerry McAuliffe, What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and other Wild Animals, Thomas Dunne Press: 2007 – Ever-confident former DNC Chair – and current Virginia Governor – recounts his many successes.
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Three Rivers Press: 1995 – A must read to understand the origins of President Obama.
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, Crown Publishers: 2007 – Candidate Obama’s vision for America.
David Plouffe, The Audacity to Win, Viking: 2009 – Excellent account of the 2008 Obama campaign from his excellent campaign manager.
The Bay and Its TributariesWilliam Warner, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay, Back Bay: 1976 – Deserving of its Pulizter Prize, this is the best book on the Bay, focusing on the blue crabs and the folks who harvest them.
Tom Horton, Bay Country: Reflections on the Chesapeake, Ticknor& Fields: 1987 – Second best book on the Bay. Wonderful and well written essays about the ecology, wildlife, and human life.
Gilbert C. Klingel, The Bay, Dodd, Mead & Co.: 1951.
Arthur W. Sherwood, Understanding the Chesapeake: A Laymman’s Guide, Tidewater Publishers: 1973.
Wylie C. Pong, Chesapeake Invader: Discovering America’s Giant Meteorite Crater, Princeton Univ. Press, 1999.
John H Whitehead, III, The Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay, Tidewater Pub: 1979 – Very good book of pictures of those who make (or made) a living on the bay, with very pithy and amusing quotes.
Richard Harwood, Ed., Talking Tidewater: Writers on the Chesapeake, Literary House Press: 1996 – Series of essays on the Bay, reflecting autobiography, culture and ecology of the Bay. I’m not sure how Eugene McCarthy’s essays from Rappahanock county got in there, but worth reading anyway.
John Wennersten, Chesapeake, An Environmental Biography, Maryland Historical Society: 2001 – A very good environmental history of the Bay, and the impacts of agriculture, aquaculture, culture in general, and pollution.
John Page Williams Jr., Chesapeake Almanac, Tidewater Publishers, 1993 – enjoyable natural history discussing the goings on of the crabs, otters, sea grass and the rest of the flora and fauna of the bay on a month to month basis, over the course of a year.
Richard L. Standon, Potomac Journey, Smithsonian Institution Press: 1993 – very good short tour of history and sites along the Potomac.
James Q. Reber, Potomac Portrait, Liveright: 1974 – nice black & white photos of river, mostly in winter.
William Styron, A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth, Random House: 1993 – brief, fictionalized account of growing up in Tidewater in the 1930s.
Ann Woodlief, In River Time: The Way of the James, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 1995 – Good book reviewing the natural and human history of the James from Jamestown to Kepone to the beginnings of the improvements at Richmond, which now include Belle Isle and the Tredegar Iron Works. See Falls of the James Sites.
Howard R. Ernst, Chesapeake Bay Blues: Science, Politics, and the Struggle to Save the Bay, Rowman & Littlefield: 2003.
Eugene L. Meyer, Chesapeake Country, Abbeville Press: 1990 – Nice coffee-table book on the Bay.
Robert H. Burgess, This Was the Chesapeake Bay, Tidewater Publishers: 1963.
Sara Ebenreck Leland, St. Leonard: A Maryland Tidewater Community, 2004 – There’s more to St. Leonard than Beuhler’s.
Charles Fergus, Wildlife of Virgina and Maryland, Stackpole Books: 2003 – very readable reference. Yes, I believe that that was a copperhead.
Mark Damian Duda, Virginia Wildlife Viewing Guide, Falcon Press: 1994.
Don Chernoff, Wild Washington: Amazing Wildlife in and around our Nation’s Capital, Don Chernoff: 2005 – great photos.
John Page Williams, Chesapeake: Exploring the Water Trail of Captain John Smith, National Geographic: 2006 – beautifully illustrated journey following Capt. Smith’s 1608 voyages.
Donald G. Shomette, Pirates on the Chesapeake: Being a true history of pirates, picaroons, and raiders on the Chesapeake Bay, 1610-1807, Tidewater Publishers: 1985. Much more than Blackbeard, including how pirates financed the College of William & Mary. (Could use a glossary for those of us who don’t know a pinnace from a pink.)
Garrett Peck, The Potomac River: A History & Guide, The History Press: 2012.
Other Books of InterestCivil War (Sesquicentennial) and Civil Rights Favorites
Douglas E. Egerton, Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and the Election that Brought on the Civil War, Bloomsbury Press: 2010 – excellent account of the 1860 election, including multiple Democratic Conventions, Lincoln’s surprise nomination, and solid victory, and the success of certain southerner’s plans to force secession in an effort to preserve slavery.
Doris Kearns Godwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, extremely readable 750 page account focuses on Lincoln’s diverse and sometimes contentious cabinet and the extraordinary leadership he showed in his efforts to preserve the Union.
Emory M. Thomas, The Confederate Nation: 1861-1865, Harper Torchbooks: 1979 – Good account of founding and inner workings of the Confederacy.
Sarah Vowell, Assasination Vacation, Simon & Shuster: 2005 – Irreverent travelogue of places associated with the Lincoln assassination, Garfield and McKinley too.
Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality, Alfred F. Knopf: 1977 — Excellent history of the the desegregation efforts of the NAACP, including in Prince Edward county, Va.
David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Vintage Books: 1986 – Pulitizer Prize-winning biogrpahy of King and study of the Civil Rights movement.
Native Americans (outside of Virginia)
Cahokia (Native American mound city) – Timothy R. Pauketat, Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi, Viking: 2009; William Iseminger, Cahokia Mounds: America’s First City, The History Press: 2010; Sally A. Kitt Chappell, Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos, Univ. of Chicago Press: 2002.
National Party Conventions – see this post.
VA DNC Member
I was proud to represent Virginia on the Democratic National Committee for 12 years. I am in DC now, but still active in voter protection and Democratic Party rules. More about me, click here.