Judge Thomas Roane Barnes Wright, (CSA)

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Judge Thomas Roane Barnes Wright, (CSA)

Birthplace: Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia, United States
Death: April 21, 1914 (74)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Alfred Wright and Charlotte Wright
Husband of Margaret Davidella Wright
Father of Preston Lynn Wright; Jeannette Creigh Wright; Charlotte Barnes Wright; Margaret Davidella Meade; Thomas Roane Barnes Wright and 1 other
Brother of Martha Hipkins Guy; William Alfred Wright and Richard Edward Wright

Managed by: Alice Zoe Marie Knapp
Last Updated:

About Judge Thomas Roane Barnes Wright, (CSA)


THE late Judge T. R. B. Wright, of Tappahannock, Virginia, was born in the town, where his life was spent, on July 4,1839, and died at his home on April 20, 1914, being then in his seventy-fifth year. His parents were Captain William Alfred and Charlotte (Barnes) Wright. His grandparents were Edward and Mary (Pitts) Wright, of Wrightsville. King and Queen County. His great-grandfather was William Wright, who, with two brothers, James and Thomas, came from Scotland in the seventeenth century and took up large grants of land in what is now known as Essex and King and Queen Counties. In both the paternal and maternal lines he was descended from ardent patriots who were gallant Revolutionary soldiers, and men who later became eminent jurists. His father was a soldier in the War of 1812. In his family line appear such distinguished Virginia names as Roane, Ruffin, Ritchie, Brockenbrough. His legal tastes were almost equally an inheritance with his patriotic devotion to his country.

His education was the best that ante-bellum Virginia could furnish. He attended Fleetwood Academy, King and Queen County, then conducted by Oliver White; Hanover Academy, of which the distinguished Colonel Lewis Minor Coleman was principal, who later was professor of Latin at the University of Virginia. At Hanover Academy his teacher was Colonel Hillary P. Jones, who was later one of the most distinguished artillery officers of the Civil War; at the same time he had as his mathematical teacher Captain John Hampden Chamberlayne, who later became editor of the "Richmond State." In 1859 he entered the University of Virginia where, in the School of Latin, he came under his old teacher, Professor Coleman. Taking the academic course he had won several diplomas when, in April, 1861, the Civil War broke out, and the young man, as ardent in his patriotism as his Revolutionary ancestors, dropped his studies to become a soldier.

With his elder brother, William A. Wright, and his younger brother, Richard Edward Wright, he enlisted. The elder brother became captain of the Essex sharp-shooters, and fell in one of the Seven Days' Battles around Richmond, while gallantly leading his company. The two younger brothers participated in the gallant charge on Fort Harrison and there the younger brother was killed, falling into the arms of the surviving brother. !-udismayed by these fatalities which had taken his beloved brothers, the survivor continued to discharge every military duty with fidelity and courage. His war record began two days after the fall of Fort Sumter when, as a student volunteer in a company of university students known as "The Southern Guard," he went to Harper's Ferry. He then became a private in the Second Company of the "Richmond Howitzers," which won fame at the battle of Big Bethel. In 1862, after the failure of McClelland's campaign against Richmond, he was transferred to Company F, 55th Virginia Regiment, then commanded by Colonel Francis Mallory and attached to Field's Brigade of Captain A. P. Hill's Division. While acting as Field Marshal of Ordnance for Archer's and Walker's Brigades he was elected lieutenant of Company A, and later promoted on the field of battle for gallantry. Dangerously wounded in the assault on Fort McRae, in front of Petersburg, on September 30, 1864, he lay exposed on the field of battle for several days and nights. Rescued from such dangerous surroundings he was carried to the old Seabrook warehouse in Richmond and thence transferred to Chimborazo Hospital, where he lingered for a long period between life and death. Loving the Lost Cause with all the ardor of his nature, his love did not grow cold when peace came, and "old soldiers" came to him as to one willing and ready to aid them in time of trouble. His interest and love survived to the end of his life, as was evidenced by his election as commander when Wright Latane Camp was formed, and was still commander when death came.

The war ended, the young man took up the duties of peace with the same serious-minded devotion that he had given to his duties as a soldier. He studied law, profiting much in his studies by the friendly instruction of James M. Matthews. He was licensed to practice by Judge W. T. Joynes, of the Supreme Court of Appeals, and by Judge Meredith, of the Circuit Court of Richmond.

In 1868 he entered upon the practice of his profession but had only been at the Bar two years when he was elected Commonwealth's Attorney for Essex County. By successive re-elections he served in that office twenty years, until elected by the General Assembly, on December 14, 1891, as Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and by successive re-elections he continued to fill that office until after the adoption of the new Constitution, when he became Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, in which capacity he was serving at the time of his death. His service as Commonwealth's Attorney and as Judge covered a period of more than forty years of continuous service, and the bare statement of that fact is in itself the highest eulogy.

As a judge on the bench, no man was ever more insistent for justice than Judge Wright. No detail of a case was lost sight of, no labor was spared to insure justice. When remonstrated with by friends that he was imposing unnecessary labor upon himself his only reply was that he was doing no more than his duty. It is not surprising that he was re-elected term after term.

A many-sided man, but with great singleness of purpose, he was ready to expend time, labor and money in the interest of any movement that would contribute to the welfare of his beloved country and his fellowmen. Busy as he was, he often found time to initiate movements contributory to the purpose which lay so close to his heart. Out of this feeling grew the movement which resulted in making the county courthouses of his section veritable museums of history.

He turned the galleries of the court houses into art galleries, adorned with portraits of the worthiest who had made the country. He made functions of the presentation of these portraits. Impressive and appropriate ceremonies marked the presentations and due entry was made in the Order Book of the Court. The addresses in full were published in local papers, periodicals and magazines, thus making a valuable contribution to the historical literature of the country. The donors and the people generally thus became more interested in the doings of bygone patriots and a proper pride was aroused in the care and improvement of the buildings in which these treasures are housed. As far back as 1907 the Baltimore "Manufacturers' Record" made a list of 273 of these portraits preserved in the Counties of King and Queen, Essex, Lancaster, Matthews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Gloucester and King William.

Judge Wright frequently contributed articles to law journals, periodicals and newspapers. His only writing outside of these was a booklet entitled "Westmoreland County, Va.," of which Chas. Francis Adams wrote: "Your account of Westmoreland County, Va., is so valuable that it seems wrong to retain it in a private library. I have therefore donated it to the Massachusetts Historical Society to complete their much consulted collection."

There is real inspiration in such work as this inaugurated by a true patriot whose earnest desire was to see the men of today emulate, if they did not surpass, their forbears of heroic memory. Another similar work deserves special mention. Baptized in St. John's (Protestant Episcopal) Church, at Tappahannock, by Rev. Henry Waring Lewis Temple, Rector of South Franham Parish, and confirmed by Bishop John Johns, he was a life-long and devout churchman, holding office for forty years as a vestryman. Growing out of his love for the church he was an active member of the Commission on Colonial Churches appointed by the Episcopal Council of Virginia. The Journal of the Council held at Richmond; in May, 1914, thus speaks:

"The Rev. George M. Brydon read Report of the Commission on Colonial Churches:

"The Commission on Colonial Churches has, during the past year, been carrying on its work as opportunity has offered. It has suffered a serious loss in the recent death of one of its members, Judge T. R. B. Wright, of Essex County. Loving his Church and his State with an intensity which showed itself in constant action, and intensely proud of the history of both, for many years he gave unstintedly of his time and care to the preservation of the historic material, and the commemoration of the makers of history in the Counties of the district over which he presided as Judge. He gave the same interest and care to the work of the Colonial Churches Commission from the time of its organization and was one of its most active and efficient members. A member of this Council for many years and widely loved, we thank God for the abiding influence of a life well lived, and a work well done.'

"Judge A. W. Wallace, following an eloquent address, offered the following minute, which was adopted by a rising vote: iThis Council has heard with profound sorrow of the death of Judge T. R. B. Wright, of Tappahannock, Virginia, and as an expression of the same it puts on record its tribute to a life lived on the highest plane of citizenship, both religious and civil.'"

His historic work won from the people he loved the title of Father of County Shrines in Virginia. He richly deserved the title.

Not a politician in the usual sense of the word, he was a profound politician in the correct sense, and impelled by civic duty, was never lax in the discharge of that duty.

It thus happened that he frequently participated in State and National campaigns as canvasser for the State-at-large several times; Presidential Elector in 1888; member of the Democratic State Committee; and, at the time of his elevation to the Bench, was chairman of the First District Committee. On November 29, 1876, Judge Wright was married to Miss Margaret Davidella Preston, of Lewisburg, West Virginia, whose ancestry included such families as the Prestons, Creighs, Stuarts and Lewises of Virginia and West Virginia.

The children of this marriage are Preston Wright, Jeannette Creigh Wright, Charlotte Barnes Wright, Margaret Davidella Wright, Thomas Roane Barnes Wright, and William Alfred Wright.

A life-long member of the church in which he was baptized in infancy and forty years a member of its vestry, the resolutions spread upon the minutes of the vestry are so comprehensive that they are worthy of a place here did space permit.

A man of intellectual force and wide attainments, he was a great man, not because of these things, but because he was a good man, a just man, a faithful man, who loved and served his feSowmen to the limits of his opportunity and ability.

Source: Makers of America: Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action, the Men who Constitute the Bone and Sinew of American Prosperity and Life, Volume 2, by Leonard Wilson. Published by B.F. Johnson, 1916. pages 411 - 415

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Judge Thomas Roane Barnes Wright, (CSA)'s Timeline

July 4, 1839
Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia, United States
September 13, 1878
Rapidan, Culpeper County, Virginia, United States
April 22, 1880
Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia, United States
June 23, 1885
Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia, United States
Virginia, United States
October 15, 1891
Virginia, United States
April 21, 1914
Age 74