Sure, every state has something to brag about. And, definitely, some state have more than others. Fortunately, those of us from Virginia have more than our fair share of accolades and accomplishments. In addition to making us fascinating dinner guests, Virginia’s attributes are the kinds of things that have put our state on the map and in the history books. Here are just a few of them…
1. We became the first permanent colony in the New World.
When the first colonists came to Jamestown in 1607, they were just looking to gain wealth and establish a British stronghold in the New World. What they did was succeed where so many others had failed. Through their perseverance, they created a colony that grew and thrived, leading to the creation of America as we know it today.
2. We are the birthplace of Presidents.
More presidents have been born in Virginia than any other state. From our nation's first president, George Washington, to the 28th, Woodrow Wilson, a total of eight presidents have called Virginia home. Among these men are some of the most influential leaders of all times, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
3. We ended two wars in Virginia.
Two of the most important wars fought on domestic soil ended in Virginia. The Revolutionary War ended when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in Yorktown in 1783. Less than 100 years later in Appomattox, Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, thus ending the Civil War and reuniting the nation.
4. We created the first free public school in the nation.
The first free public school started in Hampton in 1634. The Syms-Eaton Free School was established by Benjamin Syms. Syms donated 200 acres and eight cows to get the school started. Eventually, it also served Elizabeth City and Poquoson.
5. We changed the face of agricultural with the first mechanical grain reaper.
Cyrus McCormick of Rockbridge County combined the work of multiple farming tools to create the mechanical reaper in 1831. Before he perfected his design, harvesting grain had been backbreaking, time-consuming work. His invention allowed farmers to increase crop yields up to 200% and is the basis of today’s commercial machines. McCormick was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976.
6. We helped create equality through Civil Rights.
In 1950s and 60s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Virginia filed more lawsuits than any other state, many of them leading to monumental victories, including Loving v. Virginia, a case in which the law against interracial marriage was overturned. This ruling on June 12, 1967, led to similar rulings in 15 other states.
7. And speaking of Civil Rights, Virginia introduced the “sit-in” as a form of peaceful protest…which became a mainstay of the Civil Rights movement.
On August 21, 1939, five young black men led by Samuel Tucker, a Howard University graduate who had passed the Virginia state bar at the age of 20, entered the Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library. Though the men could vote and they paid taxes, the whites-only library denied them library cards. One by one, the men took a book from the shelf, sat down and began to read. The police were called and the men were arrested for trespassing.
This “sit-in” was the first of its kind and began a new means of peaceful protest that would be repeated in the following years. Tucker continued to seek means of non-violent civil protest over time and later in his life, he served as the lead lawyer for for the NAACP, appearing before the Supreme Court no fewer than four times.
8. We have the Chincoteague Ponies.
The Chincoteague Ponies, as they’re known despite inhabiting Assateague Island, have long been a source of intrigue, fascination and pride to Virginians. Every year, thousands of visitors from around the country come to the islands for the annual Pony Swim and Auction, made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947 book, "Misty of Chincoteague."
9. Virginia is recognized as the “birthplace of country music.”
The city of Bristol was recognized by Congress as “The Birthplace of Country Music” in 1998 for being the site of some of the first commercial country recordings of artists like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Granted we have to share this one with Tennessee, mainly because we actually share Bristol with Tennessee. Bristol is one of the few cities that shares a state line—and in this case, they share a Main Street—half in Virginia, half in Tennessee.
10. We have a top-ranked economy…
And, I'm not just saying that. The
calls Virginia “the best state in America” when it comes to managing budgets shortfalls. We’ve managed to keep the economy on an even keel even when the rest of the world seems to be in a spin.
11. …Some of the best schools…
Virginia has 3 of the top 40 public colleges and universities in the nation: University of Virginia (#2), the College of William and Mary (#6) and Virginia Tech (#27). But that’s saying nothing of all of other amazing schools, public and private. And for your pre-college crew, rest assured that good schools abound.
, an online financial site, ranks Virginia K-12 schools #7 in the nation.
12. …And, we’re one of the best places for business in the nation.
Again, don't just take my word for it.
, has ranked Virginia #1 for best place to have a business. In fact, 23 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here.
13. We created the first law school.
In 1762, George Wythe, a prominent Williamsburg lawyer, took a young William and Mary grad named Thomas Jefferson under his wing and trained him in the field of law. With no schools offering a formal law degree at the time, Jefferson and Wythe recognized a new need for the nation. In 1779 while serving as governor of Virginia, Jefferson encouraged the creation of a new degree in law at his alma mater. John Marshall, who became the fourth Chief Justice of the United States in 1801, also studied under Wythe in 1780. The statue of Wythe and Marshall shown above now sits outside of the William and Mary School of Law.
14. We go above and beyond to help others.
In 1909, Julian Stanley Wise was a young boy in Roanoke. Sadly, this was the year he witnessed a drowning in his hometown. It was then that he vowed that he would become a lifesaver. And in 1928, he made good on his promise, organizing the nation’s first volunteer rescue squad, the Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Crew. His organization became the precursor to rescue squads and EMT services that are now all over the country.
15. We have the most beautiful mountains, beaches and historical sites…but most of all, we have the best people. And that’s something we can all be proud of.
There’s no doubt that when it comes to scenery, sites and seasons, Virginia can hold her high in any company. But, from past to present, what makes Virginia truly special is the amazing people that have come to call this beautiful state home.
Of course, these are only some of the things that we like to brag about. What are the things that you feel set Virginia apart? Are there things that you like to mention to your friends, particularly those from out of state, that you would like to see added to this list? We would love to hear about them in the comments below!