Theodore Roosevelt "Ted" Dalton (June 3, 1901 – October 30, 1989) was an American lawyer, judge and politician known as "Ted" and as Virginia's "Mr. Republican".
Ted Dalton was born in Carroll County, Virginia to parents Currell Dalton (November 4, 1866 – November 29, 1919) and Loduska Vernon Martin (December 10, 1869 – 1920). His wife, Mary Turner, died September 1988. Dalton's grandmother Clarissa Goad Dalton (August 18, 1841 – February 28, 1907) was related to Dexter Goad (November 5, 1867 – July 1, 1939), the Republican clerk of court in Carroll County at the time of the courthouse shootings following the conviction of Floyd Allen in March 1912.
Dalton's nephew, John Nichols Dalton, whom he had adopted as his son, was elected as a Republican as Governor of Virginia in 1977. Their next-door neighbor in Radford was Charlotte Giesen, who became the first Republican woman elected to the House of Delegates in 1957.
Dalton pursued both his undergraduate and law studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, receiving an A.B. in 1924 and an LL.B. in 1926.
In 1968, Judge Dalton was selected as an honorary member of the Order of the Coif of the law school of Washington and Lee University. Judge Dalton also received an honorary doctorate of laws degree from the College of William & Mary in 1972.
A collection of Dalton's papers is housed at William & Mary's Earl Gregg Swem Library.
Dalton practiced law for over 33 years in Radford, Virginia, beginning in 1926. His law partners included Richard Poff, and in later years both Poff and Dalton were mentioned as potential nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States. Dalton also worked with James C. Turk, who like Dalton later became a federal judge.
In addition to his private practice, Dalton was elected as Commonwealth's Attorney, serving from 1928 to 1936. Dalton won his first Senate election as a write-in candidate in 1944, and became the leading Republican in Virginia during his 15 years a member of the Senate of Virginia. Senator Dalton ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia in 1953 and 1957, in opposition to the fading but still dominant Democratic Byrd Organization led by Harry F. Byrd. Both times Dalton proposed to abolish the poll tax.
Dalton's first campaign was the high point of what appeared to be a new era for the Republican Party in Virginia. In the federal elections of 1952, three Virginia Republicans including Dalton's old law partner Poff were elected to Congress, and Dwight D. Eisenhower carried Virginia in the presidential election. In 1953, against Democrat Thomas Bahnson Stanley and Independent Howard Carwile, Dalton garnered 45% of the vote. His running mates in that election were both lawyers: Stephen Timberlake of Staunton as the candidate for lieutenant governor and Walter E. Hoffman of Norfolk (another future federal judge) for Attorney General. Public finance for transportation proved a crucial issue, as Senator Byrd took back his promise to his friend Dalton not to intervene, after Dalton proposed road bonds at odds with Byrd's doctrine of "pay as you go."
School desegregation seemed the major issue in the 1957 election (in the wake of the 1954 and 1955 decisions in Brown v. Board of Education), and Dalton lost badly to Democrat J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.. By 1956, Byrd Democrats including Almond had responded with "Massive Resistance", vowing to close schools to avoid integration. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and efforts by the federal government to enforce desegregation in Little Rock Central High School were used against Republicans, and led to the widened margin of defeat for Dalton in his second statewide campaign. Dalton had criticized the Brown decisions, and proposed a pupil placement plan that would allow most schools to remain segregated "for maybe a hundred years." He also wrote to President Eisenhower, urging withdrawal of the troops from Little Rock, Arkansas. Nonetheless, Dalton managed just 36.5% of the vote.
When Senator Byrd announced retirement plans in 1958, Senator Dalton cast the only vote in the General Assembly against a resolution urging Byrd to run again, which Byrd did.
Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. selected Dalton to serve on the Virginia Commission for Constitutional Revision, the efforts of which led to the Virginia Constitution of 1971. Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Oliver Hill, former governors Albertis Harrison and Colgate Darden also served on that commission .
President Eisenhower nominated Dalton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, which he assumed on July 21, 1959, succeeding John Paul, Jr. Along with his colleagues, Judge Dalton as federal judge presided over litigation that continued into the 1970s to implement the Brown decision in Virginia's public schools. Judge Dalton ordered the desegregation plan for the public schools in Roanoke, Virginia, which ultimately led to the conversion of the Lucy Addison High School (for African Americans) into a desegregated middle school.
Judge Dalton served on the three-judge panel in a case rejecting a constitutional challenge to Virginia's method of distributing state money for education to the various school districts across the state.
Judge Dalton took senior status in 1976. President Gerald Ford nominated Glen M. Williams as Dalton's successor, after Senator William L. Scott derailed the nomination of the President's first choice. As a senior judge, Judge Dalton continued to be a force on the bench for many years, famously making use of his personality, knowledge, and vast sphere of acquaintances to push civil cases to agreed resolutions.
Death and legacy
Judge Dalton died at Radford Community Hospital of complications from pneumonia. He outlived his son, John Dalton, by some three years. Dalton's former law clerks included Glen E. Conrad, who in 2003 succeeded U.S. District Judge Glen Williams on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, but whose nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit lapsed at the end of the term of President George W. Bush.
His personal papers are held by the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William & Mary.