Goodwyn elected as Virginia’s Chief Justice

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Supreme Court of Virginia announced Monday, Dec. 20, that state Supreme Court Judge S. Bernard Goodwyn, a Boykins native, had been elected chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia after current Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons made known he was stepping down from the role effective Friday, Dec. 31.

S. Bernard Goodwyn

Goodwyn, who was elected to the top position by the other justices on the Supreme Court of Virginia, will assume the office Saturday, Jan. 1.

“I’m very honored that my colleagues have the confidence in me to elect me to the position, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve,” Goodwyn said Tuesday, Dec. 21.

He said the chief justice position was not one that has been the focus of his goals and dreams, but rather his focus has been on the overall opportunity of public service.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to serve in some type of a capacity in public life, but I did not have any idea of what capacity that might be,” he said.

Goodwyn was born and raised in Southampton County on Deloatche Avenue in the town of Boykins.

He graduated from Southampton High School as part of the class of 1979.

The Virginia Supreme Court press release stated that Goodwyn earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, magna cum laude, in 1983 and his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1986. Prior to going on the bench, he served as a research associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and as a litigation partner at a Norfolk law firm.

He served as a judge of the General District Court for the city of Chesapeake for two years and also served as a judge of the Circuit Court for the city of Chesapeake for more than 10 years.

The release also noted that Goodwyn was appointed to the Supreme Court of Virginia by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in 2007 and was unanimously elected by the General Assembly to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2008 before being reelected in 2020. 

“I’m sure I speak for all of the Boykins District as well as all of Southampton County when I say how proud I am of Justice Goodwyn,” Boykins District Supervisor Carl J. Faison said. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him and following his career for a long time. I met him when he was a teenager, excelling academically in high school and also on the football team. He was the quarterback for Southampton High School during its glory days.”

In the class of 1979 superlatives, Goodwyn was voted Most Likely to Succeed.

“And he’s lived up to that, hasn’t he?” Faison said.

Faison noted he has followed Goodwyn’s career from the beginning.

“He’s made some great accomplishments, and I guess this is sort of his crowning one,” Faison said of the chief justice election. “I’m so proud of him. He’s been such an inspiration to all of us. He was a model for my kids, and I am so thankful for him and just pray that God will continue to bless him and his family.”

Boykins Mayor Jackie Robertson said the town is quite proud of Goodwyn.

“My family has a personal connection with Justice Goodwyn,” Robertson said. “My wife’s grandmother was his babysitter and said he would be president one day. The citizens of Boykins are bursting with excitement and pride.”

Goodwyn also has ties to the town of Branchville, which is where his parents moved after buying a small farm there in 1983. Goodwyn presently lives in Chesapeake and is a member of Branchville’s Galilee Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon like his father before him.

Goodwyn is brother to Southampton County School Board Chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn, who expressed her excitement for her younger brother Tuesday.

“I know that he’s going to enjoy this new role,” she said. “I think that he has the passion and the objectivity to really excel in this position.”

Chief Justice-elect Goodwyn said, “I’m just going to do the best I can to carry out responsibilities of the job in a way that hopefully benefits all the citizens of the commonwealth.”