In memoriam: Leigh Middleditch, Jr.
Former Miller Center benefactor and UVA alum modeled public service
Leigh Middleditch, Jr., a University of Virginia–educated lawyer who worked behind the scenes to end partisan divides in the Commonwealth, died on October 4 at age 92.
Middleditch was a longtime Miller Center Governing Council and Foundation Board member. He was also a founding member of the Holton Society, which was started in 2014 as a way to recognize supporters who have given their time, talent, and resources to support the work of the Center.
In a 2010 memo, he spelled out his affinity for Miller Center founder Burkett Miller: “I was privileged to know Mr. Miller during the time I was the University’s legal advisor (1968–72).” Middleditch was asked to form the Miller Center Foundation as the “receptacle for Mr. Miller’s generous endowment contribution.”
Middleditch graduated from UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1951 and from the School of Law in 1957. Friends reported that he had an aggressive brain tumor that was undiscovered until a few weeks ago.
He also co-founded the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at UVA, which trains leaders in the art of political negotiation and nonpartisan cooperation. And he worked to end gerrymandering and the state’s decades-old redistricting scheme by launching a successful constitutional amendment campaign.
“If anyone was the father or parent of nonpartisan redistricting in Virginia, it was Leigh,” said Charles “Skip” Fox, a partner at McGuireWoods who had worked with Middleditch for decades.
Middleditch also served on the UVA Board of Visitors from 1990–94 as an appointee of Gov. Douglas Wilder. His civic commitments, most often focused on governance, filled almost every moment outside of his work in tax law.
His civic commitments filled almost every moment outside of his work in tax law.
“He would not want credit for any of it,” said Bob Gibson, a former executive director of the Sorensen Institute. Among the more than 2,000 graduates of the institute’s various programs were Gov. Ralph Northam and dozens of members of the Virginia General Assembly, including 27 who serve currently.
In the interest of political comity, one of Middleditch’s many initiatives was OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting, which set out to overhaul gerrymandering in the state. OneVirginia2021’s efforts led to the successful state referendum last year that established an advisory commission and new redistricting rules.
Middleditch was born September 30, 1929, in Detroit. He received his bachelor’s degree from UVA, where he was a member of Omnicron Delta Kappa, before serving in the military. He returned to the Law School through the ROTC program and passed the bar in 1957. He became an associate of James H. Michael, Jr., from 1957–59, then a partner at Battle, Neal, Harris, Minor & Williams from 1959–68. He joined McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe (now McGuireWoods) in 1972.
He retired from McGuireWoods in 2018, but he rented an office downtown so he could continue his redistricting reform effort and other projects.
Although he reluctantly accepted a few awards over the course of his life, including the Sorensen Institute’s Founder’s Award in 2019, Middleditch found the work itself to be his reward. He believed that pro bono and public service were to be considered not just the occasional good deed but a way of life.
In addition to serving as the University’s legal advisor and special counsel, he was president of the Law School Alumni Association, among other UVA organizations.
In Charlottesville, his board work included stewardship of community journalism through Charlottesville Tomorrow and indigent health through the Charlottesville Free Clinic. He was a trustee for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs Monticello, and James Madison’s Montpelier.
Middleditch famously ordered a tuna fish sandwich for lunch every day for decades from Timberlake’s Drug Store downtown. At 11:45 a.m., the women who ran the lunch counter knew to have his sandwich ready.
“I don’t know that I ever saw Leigh without a sport coat and always in the lapel was a pin with the American and Virginia flags,” UVA professor of politics James Todd said in a Facebook post. “To me he was the embodiment of a good citizen and, more than that, a patriot who devoted a great deal of his life to working for the good of all of us.”