Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr., the first African American chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, has died, a court spokeswoman tells NBC29.
Hassell, 55, passed away Wednesday morning. Supreme Court spokeswoman Katya Herndon could not comment on the cause of death.
It was widely known that Hassell was battling health problems; he sat out of the court's session this year.
News of his death rippled across Capitol Square -- where legislators had a previously scheduled meeting to interview potential justices to fill another opening on the court.
Hassell, a University of Virginia alum, finished his term as chief justice last month. He held the post since 2003.
Gov. Gerald Baliles (D) appointed Hassell to the court in 1989.