Farewell to Sam Glasscock

Published 8:00 am Thursday, July 4, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

James Samuel “Sam” Glasscock, a distinguished lawyer and long-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates, passed away on Wednesday, June 24, at his home. Glasscock, who was born on Nov. 19, 1931, in Springton, West Virginia, was known for his legal career, his military service in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and his two-decade tenure in the General Assembly, where he advocated for progressive causes such as the abolition of the death penalty and the treatment of AIDS as a healthcare issue.

Glasscock was a graduate of Chuckatuck High School. After attending Hampden-Sydney College and graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1955, Glasscock practiced law with Joshua Pretlow and Mills E. Godwin, becoming a law partner in the firm Godwin and Glasscock. Along with serving in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp (J.A.G.) and traveling Europe with his wife, Betty Jane Staples, Glasscock also served as a Virginia House of Delegates member for 21 years from 1970 to 1991, championing for less popular causes such as abolishing the death penalty and treating AIDs as a healthcare issue.

Glasscock was also named Suffolk’s First Citizen in 1994. The award, given each year since 1956, except for a brief hiatus from 1999-2002, goes to an individual who best exemplifies the spirit of citizenship and has shown significant leadership through his or her time, talents, and efforts to make the city of Suffolk a better place to live.

Email newsletter signup

Chairman and CEO of Birdsong Peanuts, George Birdsong, took time to reflect on Glasscock, noting he first met the lawyer while working at Godwin and Glasscock before assisting his own family in the peanut business.

“I really enjoyed working with Sam in the law practice. He helped me out as a new lawyer to learn tricks of the trade and how to draw documents and that type of thing,” Birdsong said. “That was a great experience.”

One of Glasscock’s biggest interests was improving the healthcare system, which saw him elected to the Louise Obici Memorial Hospital Board of Directors in 1966, serving for 25 years as Board Chair. Birdsong, who was asked to chair the Obici Foundation in 1985, says that his “lifetime experience” with Glasscock has been through their connection with Obici Hospital. 

“So we worked very closely as the hospital had needs,” he said. “They would come to the Obici Foundation and ask if we would help out with half a million dollars or a million dollars or whatever they needed to accomplish the project that they were working on, and we would discuss it and come back and tell them what we were willing to do. That was a great experience for many years.”

Birdsong says that after the hospital was bought by Sentara, the Obici Healthcare Foundation was formed with funds left over from the hospital merger, amounting to $100 million. Birdsong served as Chair of the foundation for 10 years with Glasscock serving as Vice Chair. Following Birdsong’s term, Glasscock followed Birdsong as foundation Chairman until the end of his own term as well. Likewise, Birdsong shared he will miss having Glasscock as someone to “bounce your thoughts off of” and get a “good, logical, reasonable response.”

“But through all these years, we worked so closely together, and Sam was just so smart and so competent, so trustworthy. It was just a treat to work with someone with such valuable attributes in terms of work ethic and such a great character,” Birdsong said. “So Sam will be greatly missed by me, and I have kept up with him even though he’s been slowing down these last three or four years. We would visit from time to time. And it’s just been a treat to have Sam as part of my life.” 

Glasscock’s celebration of life was held on Saturday, June 29, at Wesley Chapel UMC in Chuckatuck.