List of Speakers of the Virginia House of Burgesses

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The Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses was the presiding officer of the House of Burgesses, the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly during the period in which Virginia was a colony of the Kingdom of England and, after 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The General Assembly itself was first organized in 1619, when the colony was owned and administered by the London Company. Twenty-two burgesses were elected to that Assembly, two each from eleven designated settlement areas in the colony. The Assembly formed a unicameral legislature made up of the burgesses and the appointed members of the Governor's Council, presided over by the Governor, George Yeardley. Yeardley designated his secretary, John Pory, a council member, as Speaker of the General Assembly. Pory, however, appears to have acted only as secretary of the Assembly.[1]

The General (or Grand) Assembly met seventeen more times from that first session through 1642. Its legal standing was put in doubt when the London Company was dissolved in May 1624 and Virginia came under the direct administration of the Crown.[1][2]

A crisis developed in the spring of 1635 when an unpopular governor, Sir John Harvey, was arrested and deported to England by his own Council. This led to the February 1639 reappointment of former Governor Sir Francis Wyatt. Wyatt's instructions acknowledged the legal status of the General Assembly and of land titles granted by the London Company, ending 15 years of legal limbo.[2]

In late 1642 Sir William Berkeley was appointed Governor. He reorganized the Assembly into two houses along the lines of the English Parliament. The new lower house, the House of Burgesses, was to provide a counterweight to the Council-led group that had deposed Harvey. However, they maneuvered to elect one of their own, Thomas Stegg, as the first Speaker of the new House when it convened in March 1643.[2]

Speaker Peyton Randolph would support independence in the 1770s. The House of Burgesses was called back by the Royal Governor Lord Dunmore one last time in June 1775 to address British Prime Minister Lord North's Conciliatory Resolution. Randolph, who was a delegate to the Continental Congress, returned to Williamsburg to take his place as Speaker. The House of Burgesses rejected the proposal, which was also later rejected by the Continental Congress.[3] The burgesses met in conventions that served as a revolutionary provisional government for Virginia. Randolph served as the president of the conventions until his death in October 1775. The burgesses did not elect a new speaker, but did elect a new president for the conventions and they would pass the role of the House of the Burgesses on to the House of Delegates when they adopted the Constitution of Virginia in June 1776.

Speakers of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1643–1776
Order[4] Name County or city Born Term began Term ended Died
1st Stegg, ThomasThomas Stegg Charles City County unknown 1643 1643 1652
2nd Hill Sr., EdwardEdward Hill Sr. Charles City County unknown 1644 1645 1663 (ca.)
3rd Scarborough, EdmundEdmund Scarborough Northampton County 1617 (ca.) 1645 1646 1671
4th Harmer, AmbroseAmbrose Harmer James City County unknown 1646 1646 1647 (ca.)
5th Harwood, ThomasThomas Harwood Warwick County unknown 1647 1649 1652
1650 1651
6th Major, EdwardEdward Major Nansemond County 1615 1652 1652 1655 (ca.)
7th Dew, ThomasThomas Dew Nansemond County unknown 1652 1652 1691 (ca.)
8th Chiles, WalterWalter Chiles James City County unknown 1653 1653 1653
9th Whitby, WilliamWilliam Whitby Warwick County unknown 1653 1653 1655
2nd Hill Sr., EdwardEdward Hill Sr. Charles City County unknown 1654 1655 1663 (ca.)
10th Moryson, FrancisFrancis Moryson James City County bef. 1628 1656 1656 1680/81
1657 1657
11th Smith, JohnJohn Smith Warwick County 1620 1658 1658 1663
2nd Hill Sr., EdwardEdward Hill Sr. Charles City County unknown 1659 1659 1663 (ca.)
12th Bland, TheodorickTheodorick Bland Charles City County 1629 1660 1660 1671/72
13th Soane, HenryHenry Soane James City County unknown 1661 1661 1661
14th Wynne, RobertRobert Wynne Charles City County 1622 1662 1674 1675
1675 1675
15th Warner Jr., AugustineAugustine Warner Jr. Gloucester County 1642/43 1676 1676 1681
16th Godwin, ThomasThomas Godwin Nansemond County unknown 1676 1676 1677/78
15th Warner Jr., AugustineAugustine Warner Jr. Gloucester County 1642/43 1677 1677 1681
17th Travers, WilliamWilliam Travers Rappahannock County unknown 1677 1677 1679
1678 1678
18th Kemp, MathewMathew Kemp Gloucester County unknown 1679 1679 1682
19th Ballard, ThomasThomas Ballard James City County 1630 1680 1682 1690
1683 1683
20th Hill Jr., EdwardEdward Hill Jr. Charles City County 1637 1684 1684 1700
21st Kendall, WilliamWilliam Kendall Northampton County unknown 1685 1685 1686
22nd Allen, ArthurArthur Allen Surry County unknown 1686 1688 1710
1689 1690
23rd Milner, ThomasThomas Milner Nansemond County unknown 1691 1693 1694
1694 1695
24th Ludwell Jr., PhilipPhilip Ludwell Jr. James City County 1672 1695 1696 1726/27
25th Carter, RobertRobert Carter Lancaster County 1662/63 1696 1697 1732
26th Randolph, WilliamWilliam Randolph Henrico County 1650 1698 1698 1711
25th Carter, RobertRobert Carter Lancaster County 1662/63 1699 1699 1732
27th Beverley, PeterPeter Beverley Gloucester County 1668 (ca.) 1700 1705 1728
28th Harrison III, BenjaminBenjamin Harrison III Charles City County 1673 1705 1706 1710
1707 1709
27th Beverley, PeterPeter Beverley Gloucester County 1668 (ca.) 1710 1714 1728
29th McCarty, DanielDaniel McCarty Westmoreland County 1679 1715 1718 1724
1719 1719
30th Holloway, JohnJohn Holloway York County 1720–22
Williamsburg 1723–26
York County 1728–34
1666 (ca.) 1720 1734 1734
31st Randolph, Sir JohnSir John Randolph Williamsburg 1693 (ca.) 1734 1736 1737
1737 1737
32nd Robinson Jr., JohnJohn Robinson Jr. King and Queen County 1705 1738 1765 1766
33rd Randolph, PeytonPeyton Randolph Williamsburg 1721 1766 1775 1775

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kukla, pp. 7–10.
  2. ^ a b c Kukla, pp. 10–12.
  3. ^ "Virginia Resolutions on Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal, 10 June 1775". Founders Online, National Archives. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  4. ^ The Virginia House of Delegates numbers its speakers uniquely, rather than assigning an ordinal to each discrete term, as with U.S. President Grover Cleveland. The House of Delegates convention is followed here.


Kukla, Jon (1981). Speakers and Clerks of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1643–1776. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library. ISBN 0-88490-075-4.