Biographical Information

Elizabeth Tompkins, born in Albemarle County in 1899, earned a bachelor's degree from Westhampton College and a master's degree from Columbia University before she applied to study law at Virginia in 1920. With the encouragement of her father, Tompkins, age twenty-two, became one of the first women admitted to the Law School. These letters indicate that her pioneering experience was not an easy one for her; however, she became Virginia's first female law graduate, finishing near the top of the Class of 1923. She was also the first woman to be admitted to the Virginia State Bar.

Despite her high class ranking, Tompkins had trouble breaking into law practice. For two years after graduation, she clerked in Charlottesville for Judge R.T.W. Duke, Jr. Then in 1925, following the advice of Dean Lile, she moved to Richmond, where she began practicing, first with H. Carter Redd and later with Carter L. Refo. She also served as commissioner of accounts for Hanover County and commissioner in chancery for circuit courts in Hanover and Richmond.

Tompkins played an active leadership role at the University of Richmond, serving as president of the Westhampton College Alumnae Association and sitting for thirty years on the U. of R. Board of Trustees. Richmond awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1970. In 1981, two years after she had retired from law practice, Elizabeth Tompkins died at the age of eighty-three.

Clerk, Judge R.T.W. Duke, Jr.
Commissioner of Accounts, Hanover County, VA
Commissioner in Chancery, Circuit Courts, Hanover and Richmond Counties, VA