Virginia Judge at Heart of Monument Takedown Fight Linked to College Op-Ed Blasting Desegregation

A monument to Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, the last remaining such monument in the former capital of the Confederacy, will remain standing for the time being after a ruling by a Richmond, Va., judge. (Courthouse News photo / Brad Kutner)

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Four decades ago, a young man wrote an opinion piece critical of school desegregation and instant voter registration for his college newspaper. That op-ed resurfaced Friday, and Virginians discovered the author is now a Richmond judge who in recent weeks blocked the removal of Confederate monuments during the nationwide re-examination of symbols still tied to the institution of slavery.

Elected officials spent the day condemning the piece written by Brad Cavedo in The Collegian, the University of Richmond’s newspaper, in 1977.  

“This is highly problematic,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-74), in a tweet which included a screengrab of the op-ed. Bagby also chairs the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. 

In “What does U.S. Life Offer Me?” Cavedo — at the time the editor of The Collegian’s editorial section — wrote about his desire to leave the United States after graduation.

“I will be leaving the solicitous paternalism of the federal courts, which among other things nearly wrecked my high school education by instituting a massive busing plan that caused more upheaval in my school and life than most people could imagine,” he wrote. 

A spokesperson for the university confirmed the Cavedo listed in the paper is now a judge on the Richmond City Circuit Court.

Virginia’s history with desegregation is one of its darkest points. Known as Massive Resistance, the entire school system was shut down for a year rather than open up to mixed-race classrooms. While schools started to slowly reopen, it took until 1968 to reopen them all. The busing of white and black kids into schools to help integrate students ran until the late 1980s. 

Cavedo’s 40-year-old words stand out in 2020 because he is currently overseeing two lawsuits aiming to block the removal of monuments to Confederate generals in the former capital of the Confederacy. 

The first suit involves an effort by Governor Ralph Northam who tried to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee. In June, Cavedo declared Lee’s statue “belongs to the people” and from the bench granted a request to block its removal by an alleged heir who claimed standing in the case thanks to an 130-year-old deed. A hearing in the dispute set for later in the month.

In a second lawsuit, Cavedo issued an order from the bench Thursday blocking Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s emergency order to remove the rest of the city’s Confederate monuments. That suit was filed by an anonymous Virginian who claimed Stoney’s order violates state law.

Cavedo’s order protects the last remaining statue, of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, for at least 60 days. The judge called Hill an “American war veteran” despite his participation in the war against the United States from 1862 until the Civil War ended in 1865.

Neither Stoney’s office nor Northam’s office offered comment on Cavedo’s college editorial.

In his piece, the then-college senior decried President Jimmy Carter’s plan to allow for instant voter registration. 

“This scheme will allow the parasites of this nation to become the dominating force in politics,” he wrote, adding they “soak billions from the government” and “do not bother to register in advance… and usually do not vote.” 

Like going to school, voting proved to be challenging for Black people. Despite gaining the right to vote in 1965, Black Virginians did not see a Black mayor until Hermanze E. Fauntleroy Jr. was elected in Petersburg 30 miles south of Richmond in 1973.

“I am not the irrational nut one may think I am in reading this,” Cavedo wrote in the 1977 op-ed. “I am only a realist who sees a nation sinking fast, and there is virtually no hope for recovery.” 

A voicemail left with Cavedo’s office was not returned by press time.

Delegate Patrick Hope, D-47, tweeted it didn’t matter when Cavedo wrote the editorial.

“These comments are unacceptable from a judge or anyone else. We should look into whether this individual has the impartiality or fitness to represent our judiciary,” Hope wrote.

More than 40 years later, Cavedo has been equally vocal on the bench during the hearings over Richmond’s Confederate monuments. He blamed Mayor Stoney for the damage sustained by the monuments and the areas around them, and asked why Stoney didn’t do more to maintain “law and order” over the “rioters” in the streets.

Cavedo, appointed by Democratic Governor Mark Warner in 2002, added: “This is a revolution.”

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