She was born in Richmond, Virginia. Her educational background includes a B.A. from the College of William and Mary earned in 1973, and a law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law earned in 1979. Furthermore she also studied abroad on a Fulbright Fellowship in Bonn, Germany.
Prior to her appointment as Secretary of Administration, she served on the Richmond, Virginia City Council from 1994 to 1997, including a stint as the city's Vice Mayor under then-Mayor Tim Kaine. Following her tenure as Vice Mayor, she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 1998 to 2005. In 2005, she became the first African-American woman to seek the Democratic Party nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, coming in second place in the four-way primary behind State Senator Leslie L. Byrne, but ahead of State Delegate Chap Petersen, and State Senator Phillip Puckett. Following the 2005 general election, she served as Co-chair of Governor Kaine's Transition Team, and was succeeded in the State House by Democrat Jennifer McClellan.
As Secretary of Administration in the Virginia Governor's Cabinet, she was responsible for overseeing several state government agencies including the Virginia State Board of Elections, the Department of General Services, the Department of Human Resources Management, and the Department of Minority Business Enterprise. She was the only African-American woman to serve in Governor Kaine's Cabinet.
- Virginia Secretary of Administration Website at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2010)
- Hutchinson, Janet R.; Condit, Deirdre M. (January–February 2009). "Being There Matters—Redefining the Model Public Servant: Viola O. Baskerville in Profile". Public Administration Review (Oxford, UK: Blackwell) 69 (1): 29–38. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2008.01938.x. ISSN 0033-3352. Retrieved 2009-03-03.[dead link]
- Notable Alumni: Viola Baskerville '73-The William and Mary Alumni Association
- Girl Scout CEO to deliver Black History Month lecture (The Commonweath Times article)
- Archival Records