The Story of Josiah Leake
Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg refers to itself as “Lynchburg’s Best Kept Secret.” You can easily spend several hours there and only scratch the surface of the interesting stories it contains. If you visit, one of the gravestones you may see is that of Josiah Leake, Lynchburg’s first Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Then:
The cemetery website refers to Josiah Leake as one of Lynchburg’s founding fathers. He lived from 1778-1806. We do not know his birth day or day of death, so he was either 27 or 28 years old when he died. This young age is remarkable considering that he was Lynchburg’s first Commonwealth’s Attorney and its first postmaster.
A search of Josiah Leake reveals that the City of Lynchburg was approved for incorporation by Virginia’s General Assembly in January of 1805. According to both Lynchburg and Its People and The Code of the City of Lynchburg, VA (1887), Leake was appointed as Commonwealth’s Attorney in the newly formed city on July 1.
Based on the date of Leake’s death, he would only serve the city in this capacity for about one year.
History has not recorded much, if anything, else about Leake’s legal career. Attempts to find information about court cases during that timeframe come up empty. Leake has simply been remembered as being the first to hold an important position – a position which has now existed for exactly 213 years.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Today:
According to the website for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney (OCA), this person’s primary responsibilities are to “deal strictly with the enforcement of the laws of Virginia, prosecuting all felony violations and misdemeanor offenses as appropriate.” Often, if you find that you are defending yourself against criminal charges, the Commonwealth’s Attorney or someone from his/her staff who is attempting to prosecute you.
Lynchburg, Virginia made history last year when the city elected its first female Commonwealth’s Attorney. Bethany Harrison is in the first year of her four-year term. It all started in 1805 with Josiah Leake, and it continues to this day with Harrison.
While it can be fun and interesting to look back at the history of this office, it is serious when you have to defend yourself against the government in a courtroom. This is when you need to be serious about hiring the right defense attorney. If you have this need, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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