Roanoke lawyer, former US attorney proposes name change for Poff Federal Building

He’s proposing the name be changed to honor civil rights leader, Roanoke native Reuben Lawson

A local lawyer and former DA is pushing to have the building renamed after a civil rights leader

ROANOKE, Va. – A Roanoke-based lawyer who has also served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia is asking lawmakers to consider a name change for the Poff Federal Building in downtown.

You can watch the press conference here:

John Fishwick Jr. has proposed legislation to change the name of the Richard H. Poff Federal Building to honor civil rights attorney Reuben Lawson.

Fishwick sent to a letter addressed to Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Ben Cline and Rep. Morgan Griffith about the name change.

Civil rights attorney Reuben Lawson (WSLS)

In the letter, Fishwick details that Lawson was a Black attorney who played a key role in the civil rights movement in the Commonwealth. He went on to practice law in his home city of Roanoke and was a prominent member of the Star City community.

Civil rights attorney Reuben Lawson (WSLS)

Fishwick went on to highlight the legacy of the building’s current namesake, Richard H. Poff, who was a member of the armed forces, a Congressman and a Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

“While Mr. Poff should be commended for his service ... it is an unfortunate historical fact that Mr. Poff signed the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, known informally as the Southern Manifesto, in opposition to racial integration of public places, and voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Fishwick said.

The Poff Federal Building was completed in 1975 — making it the perfect time for the name to be changed, according to Fishwick.

Fishwick and a special guest are holding a press conference to discuss their proposal on Tuesday at 2 p.m.


About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.