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The Law Office Papers of William F. Long and R. Watson Sadler

Identifier: MSS-88-3

Scope and Contents

The practice of Long and Sadler, as documented in this collection, was characteristic of legal work in a small town in the early twentieth century. The cases are virtually all civil, primarily trusts and estates, real estate, insurance, torts, and divorce. From the earliest period of Long's practice, there are very few documents: one case file, two bound abstracts of title, and a ledger book dating from the early 1900s. After 1914, Long's time was apparently taken up primarily by his duties as Commissioner of Accounts, although he also served as attorney in trust and estate cases, and handled some divorces. The bulk of the cases documented here, therefore, are Sadler's.

The papers were acquired in their original, usually numbered folders. Although they may once have been filed in numerical order, they were in no particular order when they arrived. The name index file, consisting of 3 x 5 cards containing the name and a number for each client, does not necessarily correspond to the number on the case file for that particular client. The numbers (if present) and any other information on the original folders were transcribed to new folders, including the designation "colored" for African-American clients. The case files have been arranged in alphabetical order by client name, or in some cases plaintiff name. Cases that Long handled as commissioner were numbered and filed along with those he handled as attorney, so they remain amid the others. Following the case files are bound copies of abstracts of title, ledgers containing financial records both for the practice and for individual clients, and personal/professional files for Long and Sadler, especially financial records.

This collection is remarkable because it covers more than fifty years of continuous practice. The documentation of Sadler's twenty-five years in the office provides a clear impression of his work: the types of cases he took, the socio-economic range of his clients, and his case load. For those years, the collection is especially rich in detail about the lives of Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents, the property they bought, sold and left to heirs, and their disputes over inheritance. Some of the clients were prominent and well-to-do, for example, John West who early in the century owned a great deal of property downtown, but many others were either financially comfortable or poor. There are quite a few divorces, a number of which involve dissertion during World War II. Although it lacks significant cases or famous clients, the collection is representative of a large body of legal work for the period it covers.


  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1913-1967


Biographical / Historical

[adapted from a memorial, provided by the Albemarle County Historical Society, written at the time of Long's death, and from obituaries in the Daily Progress]

William Fife Long was born in Charlottesville on February 2, 1874, the son of John Cralle Long. His father, a Baptist minister, moved shortly after William's birth to Crozier, Pennsylvania, where he taught history at Crozier Theological Seminary. It was not until 1895 after graduating from Richmond College and teaching for a year that William Long returned to Charlottesville to attend law school at the University. He received his law degree in 1897 and hung out his shingle in the spot where seventy years later he would end his law practice. This little building, No. 220 Court Square, had earlier served as law office to U.S. Senator Thomas S. Martin. Long slept in one room and saw clients in the other. To make ends meet he also worked for a time at the Michie Company. After serving in the Spanish American War in 1898 as a member of the Charlottesville Monticello Guards, he formed a partnership with John S. White, son of Judge John M. White of the Circuit Court of Albemarle County. In 1914 he became Commissioner of Accounts of the Circuit Court, a position he held for 53 years, until he closed his law office about two weeks prior to his death.

Robert Watson Sadler was born in Charlottesville on October 19, 1899, the son of William Robert and Mary Ann Hall Sadler. Watson served in World War I, attended Randolph-Macon College and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1923. When Long's partner left law practice to become Charlottesville's postmaster, he took Watson Sadler as his partner. For the next 25 years Long and Sadler practiced together, although Sadler handled most of the cases since Long was occupied as Commissioner of Accounts. During the last two years of the partnership, Sadler was also justice of the peace, and civil and police justice for Charlottesville. In 1951 he was appointed Corporation Court judge, a position he held until a cerebral hemorrhage caused his sudden death in 1957. From the time Sadler became judge Long practiced alone, although for a number of years prior to his death he shared office space with his friend Henry B. Goodloe. Toward the end of his life he employed office assistants, first, Anne Irving Cox and later, Emily Y. Wilson.

Both Long and Sadler were active in many Charlottesville civic activities. Long was a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals for almost 25 years and pushed the City Council to pass the "Architectural Design Control Ordinance." In May 1962, the Charlottesville and Albemarle Bar Association held a special meeting to express its affection for Long, its senior member, by presenting him a framed resolution naming him the first Patriarch of the Bar. Sadler's memberships included the Lions' Club, Elks' Lodge, American Legion, Young Men's Business Club, and Red Land Club.

William Long was married to Ada Perry; their one child, Frances, who married James B. Hodges, had five children. Ada Long died in 1960, and William died March 11, 1967 at the age of 93. Watson Sadler was married to Elizabeth Randolph Dey, and their children were Mrs. John L. Sadler [?], Diane Randolph Sadler, and Robert Watson Sadler, Jr. Watson Sadler died on June 23, 1957 at the age of 57.


110 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Legal, civil case files (1913-1967), primarily trusts and estates, real estate, insurance, torts, and divorce that document the work of a small local law firm.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Law Office Papers of William F. Long and R. Watson Sadler were transferred to the Law Library in 1988 by the Manuscripts Department of Alderman Library and are on loan from the Albemarle County Historical Society. The Historical Society received the papers along with the office building owned by William Long at the time of his death in 1967.

The Law Office Papers of William F. Long and R. Watson Sadler1913-1967 MSS 88-3
The Law Office Papers of William F. Long and R. Watson SadlerMSS 88-3
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Description is inEnglish

Repository Details

Part of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Repository

Arthur J. Morris Law Library
580 Massie Road
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22903 United States