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January 20, 2012

Western Hemisphere’s Oldest Deliberative Body to Conduct 25th Special Commemorative Session in Colonial Williamsburg’s Capitol Building

The General Assembly of Virginia, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest elected deliberative body, will meet in special commemorative session at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

The joint session of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates is the 25th in a series of ceremonial assemblies begun in 1934 with the dedication of the reconstructed Capitol on its colonial-era foundation.

A highlight of each commemorative session is an address on current issues facing Virginia, the United States or the world. In observance of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, members of the General Assembly this year will hear nationally renowned Civil War historian Dr. James I. Robertson Jr., the Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus in History at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Robertson is also executive director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, created by the university in 1999, and is a charter member of Virginia’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. He previously served as executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission to mark the conflict’s 100th anniversary. Robertson is the author or editor of more than 20 books that include award-winning studies of the Civil War. His massive biography of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the Warner Bros. movie, “Gods and Generals,” for which Robertson was chief historical consultant.

Due to space limitations inside the Capitol, attendance at the joint commemorative legislative session is by invitation only and available to the media. The public is welcome to view the commemorative session through closed circuit television in the Lane Auditorium at the Bruton Heights School Education Center, 301 First St., Williamsburg.

Past commemorative session speakers have included President Gerald R. Ford, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Powell, U. S. Senator John Warner and Colonial Williamsburg benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr., who inspired the General Assembly at that first session in 1934 with these words:

“What a temptation to sit in silence and let the past speak to us of those whose voices once resounded in these halls, and whose farseeing wisdom, high courage, and unselfish devotion to the common good will ever be an inspiration to noble living. To their memory the rebirth of this building is forever dedicated.”

Following the tradition begun nearly 80 years ago, members of the General Assembly return to the Hall of the House of Burgesses in the Colonial Capitol at Williamsburg to renew its inspiration and to strengthen its resolve to preserve the fundamental principles of free governments. During that first session at the Capitol dedication ceremonies Feb. 24, 1934, the senators and delegates passed legislation enabling the General Assembly to hold future sessions at the Capitol “at times that might seem proper.”

The General Assembly traces its origins to Virginia’s first elected legislature, the House of Burgesses, which met for the first time in a simple church at Jamestown, the Virginia colony’s first capital, in 1619.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281