Virginia Legal Aid Society today presented the Joel C. Cunningham, Sr. Award to Judge Richard S. Blanton. VLAS created the award in 2016 to honor those who have strongly promoted access to justice in Virginia’s Tenth Judicial Circuit. The award is named after Judge Cunningham, who retired that year from full-time service but still hears cases and remains professionally active. Blanton is the third recipient.
In an article honoring Judge Blanton upon his retirement in 2011, the Farmville Herald wrote, “Justice was in good hands with Judge Blanton, able to trust his sight and vision during court proceedings to help guide justice through the maze of legal proceedings that can diminish justice’s full effect.”
It was perhaps ordained that Judge Blanton would find a career in the law. His great grandfather was a trial magistrate; his father was Cumberland County’s sheriff for 24 years; his great uncle was a sheriff’s constable in Cumberland and his great uncle’s sister was the first female magistrate in Virginia.
Before he embarked on this path, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1970 to 1974. He then attended Longwood College, where he received his undergraduate degree and was honored as an outstanding alumnus in 2014, and then the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at William and Mary. He served his native county as both Commonwealth’s Attorney and as County Attorney from 1984 to 1989 before becoming County Attorney for Prince Edward County the following six years.
He was sworn in on April 1, 1995 as Circuit Court Judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit and served the circuit until his retirement, including terms as Chief Judge in 2009 and 2010.
“Judge Blanton has been amazing public servant,” said David Neumeyer, VLAS Executive Director. “But even more, he has been a tireless advocate for access to justice.