The Columns

Legendary Virginia Lawyer William Poff, 1955 Law Grad, Dies at 79

— by on September 6th, 2012

William B. Poff, of the Washington and Lee Law Class of 1955, died on Sept. 5, in Roanoke. He had worked at the Roanoke law firm of Woods Rogers for 53 years. When the firm signed him in 1959, it actually “preferred to hire lawyers who attended the University of Virginia,” according to the front-page story in today’s (Sept. 6) Roanoke Times. But at the recommendation of James Turk (W&L Law Class of 1952), now a U.S. District Court judge, “Woods Rogers overcame its reluctance and hired the man who would rise to the top of the firm.” A good call.

Bill Poff attended W&L Law after earning a B.S. from Virginia Tech. He graduated from W&L summa cum laude and was inducted into the Order of the Coif and Phi Beta Kappa.

He specialized in commercial and civil litigation, trying cases before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Virginia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1976, when he was active in Republican politics, President Gerald Ford nominated him for a federal judgeship, but a senator stopped the appointment.

According to his profile on the Woods Rogers website, he garnered the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys (VADA) Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation in 2004, for “the highest quality of ability and leadership in the legal profession.” In the 1960s, he also won acclaim as an Outstanding Young Man from the Roanoke and Virginia Jaycees.

Read the Roanoke Times article for more laudatory comments by his friends, including John Fishwick (Law Class of 1983), as well as a telling anecdote about the amazing work ethic of Bill and his late first wife, Magdalen Poff (and their cats).