Aubrey Ellis Strode


Aubrey Ellis Strode was a University of Virginia Law graduate (1899) who drafted the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924, represented the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded in its court case for forced sterilizations, and argued the test case for the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck before the Supreme Court. Strode was elected to the State Senate for three terms: 1905-1907; 1907-1911; 1916-1920. Strode worked as a lawyer in Lynchburg and was appointed as a judge.

There are three files in the Aubrey Strode Papers at Small Special Collections Library entirely concerned with Strode’s role in eugenics and sterilization in Virginia. Box 9 contains materials related to the court case Carrie Buck v. Dr. J.H. Bell, June 1, 1925; Box 42 contains materials related to the State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded, which Strode helped to found in 1908; Box 159 contains materials related to Sterilization and Eugenics, 1924-1947.

Among the materials related to Sterilization and Eugenics are letters between Strode and members of Virginia Law Review (a student-run periodical of the University of Virginia Law School) soliciting Strode for articles about sterilization. Walter Brown of Virginia Law Review wrote to Strode on August 7, 1925, “Your article on the Sterilization of Defectives was of extreme value to us this year. It was mentioned quite often by our subscribers and we received several requests for extra copies of the issue in which it was published.”

The materials related to the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded contains letters to Strode from Elizabeth Caufield, a women held at the facility. In a letter dated October 10, 1921, Caufield pleads Strode to get her out of the Colony and back to her home, writing, “Dr. Priddy said this was my lifetime home. Mr. Strode will you do me a favor to get me out of here [...] Dr. Priddy talked to me like I was a dog.”

Much of the other material is scattered among his legal practice alphabetical correspondence files, under the last name of correspondents such as William F. Drewry, superintendent of Central State Hospital; Dr. Albert Priddy, first superintendent of the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded; his successor, Dr. John H. Bell; and Dr. J.S. DeJarnette, superintendent of Western State Hospital or chronologically in the political and legislative series.