Arrest-the-Judge Courthouse

3 North Main Street, Chatham, Virginia
By Henry H. Mitchell

Pittsylvania County Courthouse

Built in the Greek Revival style in 1853, the Pittsylvania County Courthouse is a National Historic Landmark, one of five buildings chosen for that designation in 1987 by the U. S. Constitutional Bicentennial Commission. The site was recognized in honor of the fact that it provided the stage for one of America's first great civil rights victories.

On March 13, 1879, Judge J. Doddridge Coles was arrested at the courthouse for violating the Civil Rights Act of 1875 by not allowing black citizens to serve as jurors. While Coles was one of fourteen judges in Virginia charged with that offense, only he petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court for the dropping of charges and his release. In Ex Parte Virginia, his request was denied, and federal authority in civil rights issues was affirmed.

For further information:

Note: J. Doddridge Coles was a nephew of Mary Coles Whittle, first wife of James Whittle.

This webpage is included by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House in a web documentation of Chatham, Pittsylvania County, and Danville, Virginia.