William A. Anderson was the son of Francis Thomas Anderson (1808-1887), a lawyer, justice of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and rector of Washington College (now Washington & Lee University). His mother was Francis’s wife, Mary Ann Alexander (1806-1881).
William was a student at Washington College from 1857-1861. He never graduated, but when the Civil War broke out, he, with many of his classmates, joined the Confederate army as the Liberty Hill Volunteers. This unit became Company I of the Fourth Virginia Infantry Regiment, which was under the command of Stonewall Jackson. William was wounded in the knee at the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
He attended the University of Virginia Law School in sessions 40 & 42 (1863-1864 & 1865-1866), and established a legal practice in Lexington, Virginia.
William married first, Ellen Graham Anderson (1849-1872), the daughter of his uncle Joseph Reid Anderson. William and Ellen had no children. After her death, he married on 9 Aug. 1875, as his second wife, Mary Louisa Blair (1849-1933) of Lexington, VA. They had four daughters and a son, Ruth Floyd, Anna Aylett, William Dandridge Alexander, Judith Nicoll, and Ellen Graham Anderson. (1880-1900 U.S. Census)
William A. Anderson was active in politics his entire life. He was elected as president of the Virginia Bar Association. From 1869 to 1873, he was a Virginia State Senator, and was in the House of Delegates in 1883-1885, 1887-1889, and 1918-1919. He is noted for sponsoring the act to establish the public school system in Virginia while in the Senate. He served as president pro tempore of the 1901 constitutional convention, and as Attorney General of Virginia from 1902-1910. He served on the Board of Trustees and as rector of Washington & Lee University. (Tarter)
Anderson died at his home in Lynchburg. He and his wife Mary Louisa, and their four daughters were buried at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia. Their son William Dandridge Alexander Anderson is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
- 1850-1930 U.S. Federal Census. FamilySearch.org
- Anderson tombstones, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, VA. Findagrave.
- Tarter, Brent and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. “William A. Anderson (1842–1930).” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Jul. 2016. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
- Tyler, Lyon Gardiner, Men of Mark in Virginia. Washington, DC, Men of Mark Publishing Co., v.3, p. 3-5.
- University of Virginia Alumni Association. Directory of living alumni of the University of Virginia. Centennial Edition. Charlottesville, VA, 1921, p. 11.
- “Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XR9J-B4N : 12 December 2014), Ellen G. Anderson, 25 Jan 1872; citing Richmond, Virginia, reference Line 31; FHL microfilm 2,048,591.
- “Virginia, Historical Society Papers, 1607-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ7L-54Y : 5 December 2014), Ellen Graham Anderson, 23 Feb 1849; Birth, citing Virginia, United States, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.