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Aubrey E. Strode papers

Identifier: Mss 3014

Scope and Contents

Aubrey E. Strode (1861-1969,88 cubic feet) was a Virginia lawyer, state senator and eugenics advocate who drafted the Virginia sterilization law and brought Buck vs. Bell to the Supreme Court. This collection consists of his personal and professional papers concerning his family, law practice, army service, political and legislative activities as a member of the Virginia Senate, the Virginia Democratic Party and the Progressive movement, and as a co-owner of the newspaper, The Amherst Progress. The bulk of the papers consists of the files of the law firms of Strode and Tucker and Strode and Edwards, containing correspondence, court records, trial transcripts, exhibits, estate settlements, debt collections, and various legal documents.

It also includes some speeches, bills, and correspondence with Edwin A. Alderman in the political and legislative papers in series four concerning the proposal to establish a coordinate Woman’s College at the University of Virginia and the budgetary needs of the University of Virginia in the legislature. There are also letters in the family correspondence from his cousin, Dr. Rosalie Slaughter Morton (1876-1968), an American physician and surgeon, concerning her trips abroad and her autobiographical books.

There are three files in this collection entirely concerned with Strode’s role in eugenics and sterilization in Virginia and they are: Carrie Buck v. Dr. J.H. Bell, 1925 June 1 (Box 9); State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded, 1908, 1920-1922 (Box 42); and Sterilization and Eugenics, 1924-1947 (Box 159). Much of the other material is scattered among his legal practice alphabetical correspondence files, under the last name of correspondents such as William F. Drewry, superintendent of Central State Hospital; Dr. Albert Priddy, first superintendent of the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded; his successor, Dr. John H. Bell; and Dr. J.S. DeJarnette, superintendent of Western State Hospital or chronologically in the political and legislative series.

Other topics with significant material in these papers include: the American Legion; The Amherst Progress (for additional information about the newspaper and the partnership with Tucker, see Strode’s incoming legal practice correspondence files under “T” containing letters from Stickly Tucker and Strode’s outgoing legal practice correspondence files under “S”); Judge Advocate General material; Kenmore High School, Amherst County, Virginia; the Lynchburg Jail; Marshal Lodge Memorial Hospital, where Strode served on the Board of Directors; and political and legislative material.


  • Creation: 1861-1969


Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use.


Aubrey Ellis Strode, an American lawyer and Democratic politician, was born on October 2, 1873, at Amherst, Virginia, to Henry Aubrey Strode (1844-1898) and Mildred Powell Ellis Strode (1854-1898). Strode graduated from Kenmore High School at Amherst, and attended college at the University of Mississippi, Washington and Lee (1891-1892), and studied law at the University of Virginia, 1898-1899. Strode served as the principal of Ridgeway High School, Ridgeway, South Carolina, and Kenmore University High School, Amherst County, Virginia. The house “Kenmore,” was a colonial brick home built by Samuel Meredith Garland, whose granddaughter, Mildred Ellis, married Henry Aubrey Strode. Kenmore Farm became a preparatory high school operated by Henry Aubrey Strode between 1872 and 1889, and 1896-1899. Henry Aubrey Strode also served as the first president of Clemson University, 1890-1893. Aubrey Ellis Strode became principal and continued the school for a few years when his father fell ill.

Upon the death of his parents and being the eldest of the remaining family, Strode decided to study law, passed the bar examination and began practicing law in Amherst County and Lynchburg. His first law partner was Stickley Tucker (1879-1912), the oldest son of Cornelius S. Tucker and Sallie Stickley Tucker. Aubrey E. Strode and John William Stickley Tucker signed articles of agreement on December 31, 1902, becoming partners in the practice of law, pertaining to the counties of Amherst and Nelson, Virginia under the name of Strode and Tucker, beginning January 1, 1903, with the general office at Amherst Court House. This practice was distinct from the law practice of Aubrey Strode in Lynchburg, Virginia. Later a memorandum of partnership agreement between Aubrey E. Strode and J. Easley Edmunds, Jr. took effect on March 1, 1923 under the firm name of Strode and Edmunds, with Strode as the senior partner.

Strode represented Amherst County and Nelson County in the Virginia Senate, from 1906-1912, and 1916-1920 and was the elector at large in Virginia in 1928. He was an active member of the Democratic Party in Virginia and a popular public speaker supporting Democratic candidates during elections. During World War I, he joined the United States Army serving with the Judge Advocate General Department of the Officers’ Reserve Corps. Strode was commissioned April 23, 1918 as Major Judge Advocate and then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Judge Advocate May 15, 1919. While in service, he was on active duty at Washington, D.C. from May 15, 1918 until January 1919, and from February through August 1919, served with the American Expeditionary Forces at Chaumont and Paris, France. Strode was discharged on August 12, 1919.

Perhaps best known as the lawyer who wrote the statute known as the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924, Strode was also a long-time legal advisor to the Board of the State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded. The Colony was located in Madison Heights near Lynchburg, Virginia, and authorized by a bill written in 1906 by Aubrey Strode in collaboration with Dr. Albert Priddy, who served as the first superintendent, and Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent at Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia.

He argued the case of Buck v. Bell before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1927. Carrie Buck was a young woman from Charlottesville who Dr. Priddy petitioned to have sterilized. Priddy died during the litigation and his successor as superintendent of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble Minded, Dr. John Bell, took up the cause. The Supreme Court upheld the statute instituting compulsory sterilization of the unfit “for the protection and health of the state” on May 2, 1927. The Supreme Court majority opinion was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Strode was also a judge in the Corporation Court of Lynchburg (1933-1944). Strode died May 17, 1946 following his retirement from the bench due to poor health.

Biographical notes on Aubrey E. Strode siblings, wives and offspring is described in this subnote.

Aubrey E. Strode was the eldest child in his family and had seven siblings, six sisters and one brother. These include: Leslie Strode (1875- ?); Grace Strode (1877-1933); Ida Strode Berry (1878-1963) married Taylor Berry in 1898; Lucille Garland Strode (1882-1954) married William Ralph Smith in 1911; Edith Strode (1882-? ) married Dr. Howard Lilienthal; Mildred Strode Vandegrift (1886-1952); and Dr. Basil E. Strode (1888-1952), who served as a 1st Lt. in the Medical Corp in World War I.

Aubrey Ellis Strode married first Rebekah Davies Brown Strode (1874-1922) of Arlington, Virginia, on June 4, 1903, and second, Louisa Hubbard Strode Smith (1896-1989) of Forest, Virginia, in 1923.

Children of Aubrey E. Strode and Rebekah Brown Strode include: William Lewis Strode (1904-1906), Mildred Ellis Strode (1906-?) who married William Tucker Battle, Rebekah Elizabeth Strode (1913-1998) who married St. George Tucker Lee in 1936, Aubrey Ellis Strode, Jr. (1908-1970), and John Thompson Brown Strode (1910-1971). Hildreth Hubbard Strode (1926-2016) was the son of Aubrey E. Strode and Louis Hubbard Strode.


88 Cubic Feet (174 document boxes, 2 large oversize folders, and 2 small oversize folders, and 8 folio ledgers)

Language of Materials



The Strode papers are arranged in seven series. Series one consists of Strode's attorney case files with two subseries, a) legal case files and b) legal documents and small cases; series two contains the correspondence from Strode’s legal practice and judgeship; the third series has family and personal correspondence; the fourth series contains topical and miscellany files; series five has financial papers; series six consists of bound volumes, notebooks, and memoranda books; the seventh and last series is folio bound volumes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Aubrey E. Strode papers were originally were placed on loan to the University of Virginia library by his wife, Louisa Hubbard Strode Smith, on September 20, 1948, but were made a gift on June 15, 1971. Other smaller accessions were given to the Library to the original group of papers as gifts on January 25, 1961,June 14, 1971, and July 13, 1971.

Aubrey E. Strode papers
Sharon Defibaugh
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States