Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in., by Mary Van der Veer, undated
Location: courtroom foyer, left
Born September 7, 1839, in Fauquier County
Died January 2, 1918, in Richmond
Elected justice and court president by the General Assembly on January 6, 1894, to a 12-year term beginning January 1, 1895. Elected on January 16, 1906, to a term of ten years beginning February 1, 1907. Service terminated by resignation.
Elected president by the other judges on the court on January 5, 1895, succeeding Lewis Lunsford Lomax. Service terminated by resignation.
Other judicial service:
Judge, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, 1870-1895
Attended law school at the University of Virginia, 1859-1860
Read law with John Forbes in Warrenton
Private practice in Warrenton, 1865-1869
State delegate, 1869-1870
Civil War (Confederate)
Further reading/Research collections
Elected, Court of Appeals, col. 1, Staunton Spectator, January 10, 1894, retrieved on January 23, 2014, and Journal of the Senate of Virginia, 1893-1894 Session, 132-134, cited in Samuel N. Pincus, “The Virginia Supreme Court: Blacks and the Law, 1870-1902,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1978), 45; elected president, Supreme Court of Appeals (Richmond Session) Order Book, January 5, 1895, p. 546 (State government records collection, Library of Virginia, accession 31022); service as circuit court judge, 1870-1895, ibid.; resignation, 119 Va., iii; law school, Law, Session 1, 1859-1860, University of Virginia Catalogue, 1859-1860, University of Virginia Law Library Special Collections; birth, education, and career, Sallie E. Marshall Hardy, “Some Virginia Lawyers of the Past and President, IV,” Green Bag, 10 (1898), 156-158; read law with John Forbes, guide to the papers of James Keith, President, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, 1843-1910 (bulk 1877-1910), a collection at the Library of Virginia; death, Judge James Keith Dies at Home, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.), January 3, 1918, col. 3, retrieved on March 20, 2014; portrait, Library of Virginia catalog; digital image of the portrait courtesy the Library of Virginia, which currently houses the portrait.
The Constitution of 1902 included a provision that the first judges elected under the new constitution be elected to terms of four, six, eight, ten, and twelve years, and thereafter to regular terms of twelve years. This measure was taken to prevent another complete turnover of the court, which had occurred in 1882 and 1894. Under the terms of this provision, Keith was elected on January 16, 1906, to a new term of ten years beginning February 1, 1907. Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, 1906 Session, 69 and 70; and Thomas R. Morris, The Virginia Supreme Court: An Institutional and Political Analysis (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1975), 22-24.