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by C. Matthew West

Few decades brought more transformational change to Virginia’s political landscape than the 1960s. Unprecedented legal and demographic developments disrupted conservatives’ long-entrenched control of both the Democratic Party and of state government, ushering in a new, dynamic, and competitive era in the Old Dominion. Few Virginia politicians enjoyed more success during this tumultuous time than J. Sargeant Reynolds. The youngest Virginian to win election as lieutenant governor, “Sarge” Reynolds was at the forefront of a new generation of Democratic leaders who sought to modernize their party and state policy. His electoral future seemed limitless until his life was tragically cut short by an inoperable brain tumor, two years into his term as lieutenant governor. Though short-lived, Reynolds’s career in elected office coincided with—and helped shape—some of the most consequential political developments in twentieth-century Virginia. His story, historic in its own right, helps to illuminate the forces that reshaped the Democratic Party—and the entire commonwealth—at this important juncture.

C. Matthew “Matt” West is a member of the University of Virginia School of Law Class of 2021. A native of Salem, Virginia, he received his bachelor’s degree in History and Government from the University of Virginia, where he served as the Chair of the University’s Honor Committee. Before beginning law school, he lived in Richmond, working in the Office of the Governor and for a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.


250 pages, Softcover, ISBN 978-0-945015-35-2, Published by the Virginia Historical Society, 2019.

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