BOV rector and trailblazing lawyer dead at 77

Phoebe Hall. Photo courtesy of University Public Affairs

Hannah Eason, Contributing Writer

Phoebe Hall, the distinguished and trailblazing lawyer who served as rector of the university’s Board of Visitors, died Jan. 4. She was 77.

Hall leaves behind a legacy as the first female public defender in Richmond and as a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and sister. She was one of the first women to serve in the judiciary from Richmond when she was appointed to be a substitute judge, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“She was kind, gracious and utterly unpretentious. She was brilliant, driven and enormously talented,” VCU President Michael Rao said in a statement. “She treated everyone with respect and compassion. She was a wise and strategic leader who inspired all of us to be better, do better, and make life better for those we serve.”

Hall co-founded law firm Hall & Hall, PLC in 1969 with her late husband, Frank Hall. She served as senior partner and CEO with an expertise in family law, elder law and estate planning. In 1983, she was appointed as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge.

Frank and Phoebe Hall served on the VCU Health Board of Directors. After her husband’s death in 2015, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed her to serve as rector in his place. Last year, Gov. Ralph Northam reappointed her to a second four-year term as rector.


Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and VCU President Michael Rao were among the prominent attendees at a memorial service for Hall Jan. 9.

“She was always there with kind words of encouragement and an approving smile on her face,” Stoney said. “She supported me when she didn’t have to.”

Hall is survived by her children Kimberly Hall Johnson and Franklin Hall, son-in-law Dan Johnson, daughter-in-law Melanie Hall and her grandchildren, Mary Grace Hall, Savannah Johnson and Lilly Johnson. Other surviving family members include brothers William Poulterer and R. Jeffery Poulterer.

“She helped me become much more of a man and a citizen than I would have had she not been in my life,” said Hall’s son-in-law, Dan Johnson.

Johnson recalled warm moments Hall shared with her loved ones, including vacations with her daughter to Quebec, taking her granddaughter, Savannah, to see “Hamilton” the musical and attending an Ariana Grande concert with her granddaughter, Lilly.

Former VCU Health Director Eva Hardy’s friendship with Hall extended more than 35 years.

“[Hall] was a strong woman that many women in business and politics looked up to. She was a pioneer as a woman lawyer,” Hardy said. “She spoke when she needed to, and everything she said had meaning.”

Carolyn Johnson, a friend and colleague to Hall, shared the details of a vacation they had planned for this May. It was planned to be nothing short of an adventure, with camelback rides in the Saudi desert before heading to Oman.

“[Phoebe was] worthy of attention, remarkable, exceptional, lovely both in person and in spirit,” Johnson said. “We will all miss her very much, but in this time of grief we should remember and emulate her love of life and her many constant acts of kindness.”

Among Hall’s achievements was her 2018 induction into the Virginia Lawyers Weekly Hall of Fame. She also co-founded the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association.

“Phoebe Hall led a life of public service and set a standard for helping others that we can all aspire to,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, in a statement read by Rao at the memorial service. “Her legacy will live on for many, including those that had the pleasure of knowing and working alongside her.”

Sen. Mark Warner sent his remarks to the service as well, adding that Hall touched “countless lives” through her service.

“Her work ethic was well known, and she could always be counted on to offer solid advice that was both wise and compassionate,” Warner said in his statement.

Rao, who spoke at the memorial service, described Hall as having made VCU a stronger and better place.

“She was committed to paving the way for others,” Rao said.

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