John James Allen, January 6, 1841-February 8, 1865 (Presiding Judge, January 6, 1851-February 8, 1865)

John James Allen

John James Allen

Oil on canvas, 30 x 26 in., undated, artist unknown
Location: courtroom foyer, left

Born September 25, 1797, in Woodstock, Virginia.
Died September 18, 1871, in Botetourt County, Virginia.

Elected by the General Assembly on December 12, 1840 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Richard Elliott Parker and began his service on January 6, 1841. Elected by popular vote on May 27, 1852, under the Constitution of 1851. Service terminated by the defeat of the Confederacy and the adoption of the Virginia Constitution of 1864, ratified under the auspices of the Restored loyal government meeting in Alexandria.

Began acting as presiding justice on January 6, 1851, following the resignation of William H. Cabell. Service terminated by the defeat of the Confederacy and the adoption of the Virginia Constitution of 1864.

Attended Dickinson College, 1811
Attended Washington College, 1814
Studied law with his father, Circuit Court Judge James Allen, in Botetourt County

Other judicial service:
Judge, Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery, Botetourt County, Virginia.
Judge, General Court, 1836-1841.

Professional career:
Private practice of law in Clarksburg, Virginia, 1819-1836.
Virginia state senator, 1828-1830.
U.S. representative from Virginia, 1833-1835.
Commonwealth’s attorney in Harrison, Lewis, and Preston Counties, 1833-1835.
President, Council of Three, Confederate States of America, 1861.

Further reading/Research collections

Elected, 38 Va., iii; term suspended, Thomas R. Morris, The Virginia Supreme Court: An Institutional and Political Analysis (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1975), 40; birth, death, education, and career, F.N. Boney, “John James Allen (1797-1871),” Dictionary of Virginia Biography (1998); served on the General Court, Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr., “The Virginia State Court System, 1776-,” (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1969), 5. Portrait, Library of Virginia catalog. Allen was re-elected by popular vote on May 27, 1852.

Allen began acting as the presiding judge in January 1851, but unlike his predecessor he is not designated president in the order books. The Constitution of 1851, which provided for the election of judges by popular ballot, does not authorize the office of court president (Article VI, Section 10). The Code of 1849 indicates that in the absence of the president, the judge with the most seniority should act as presiding judge; Va. Code Chap. 169, §1 (1849).