The Ted Dalton American Inn of Court
The Hon. Ted Dalton Biography
Theodore Roosevelt Dalton, known throughout his life as Ted, was
born in Carroll County, Virginia on July 4, 1901. He died in
Radford, Virginia on October 30, 1989.
Ted was raised on a farm in Carroll County, Virginia and was a
successful farmer throughout his life. He was a graduate of the
College of William and Mary and its Marshall Wythe School of Law.
His excellence in academic studies won for him membership in Phi
Beta Kappa, and his traits of leadership, a membership in Omicron
He was a member of the Virginia State Bar from 1923, and engaged
in the general practice of law in Radford, Virginia from that time
until his appointment by President Eisenhower as a United States
District Judge for the Western District of Virginia in 1959.
He was a life-long member of the First Baptist Church, and
served on its board of deacons and as a trustee of the church. He
was active in the Boy Scouts of America for many years, and was
instrumental in securing the Camp Powhatan Reservation for that
organization, which is today the largest Scout reservation in
He was elected and served one four-year term as Commonwealth
Attorney for the City of Radford beginning in 1933. He served in
the Virginia General Assembly as a state senator front 1945 until
his appointment to the federal bench.
Ted was the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia in
1953 and again in 1957. He also served on the Republican National
Committee as a representative from 1952 until 1959.
Ted was married to Mary Turner Dalton in 1932 and they had one
son, John Nichols Dalton, who served as governor of Virginia from
1978 until 1982. The judge was preceded in death by his wife and
son, but he left surviving him four grandchildren and five great
He genuinely loved people, and in return was loved and admired
by people in all stations of life: the rich, the poor, the
educated, the uneducated. All felt comfortable around him and
counted him as their friend.
Judge Dalton was a man of academic wisdom, but one always
conscious of reality. He was a great proponent of the common sense
approach. Ted was a man of high accomplishment in his chosen work
as a lawyer and as a judge, but outstandingly successful in other
fields and avocations.
He was a man of high personal ideals, and for whom the idea of a
better state and nation was paramount.
Ted knew the rough and tumble of politics, but it never stained
him. It was on the basis of sheer ability and integrity that he was
appointed to the bench for the Western District of Virginia.
In his decisions during more than 25 years on the bench of the
United States District Court, he ruled in accordance with the
concept of pure justice that transcends the swinging pendulum of
public opinion or the dictates of narrow judicial precedent. He
understood that in a nation governed by laws and not by men there
was placed in the hands of the court the opposing powers of
salvation and destruction.
Throughout his career his personal philosophy and official
actions portrayed a firm adherence to the constitutional precepts,
a consistent dedication to the conscientious interpretation of the
law, and a careful avoidance of the temptation to legislate by
His concepts of the government's role in providing an
educational opportunity for all of our children, which he advocated
prior to taking his seat on the federal bench, were ahead of his
time. But he lived to see the idea that he espoused effected by
those who followed him in governmental service.
Governors, personal friends, public and private agencies, alike,
leaned heavily upon him for advice and assistance, and his
influence is evident today in the many facets of the judicial
system, and the statute of the legal profession, itself, and in
many other areas of public service.
His talent for resolving the most complex cases quickly while
preserving justice is, and likely will remain, unsurpassed.
His life exemplifies the highest, best and most decent
aspirations of our society. In his death Virginia lost a favorite
son, the federal judiciary lost one of its finest judges, and the
country lost a true statesman.
The foregoing was written by Judge James C. Turk for the Fourth
Circuit shortly after Judge Dalton's death.