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Elbert Lee Trinkle

Gov. Elbert Lee Trinkle

  • February 1, 1922 - February 1, 1926
  • Democratic
  • March 12, 1876
  • November 25, 1939
  • Virginia
  • Hampden-Sydney College, University of Virginia
  • Married Helen Ball Sexton; four children


ELBERT LEE TRINKLE was born in Wytheville, Virginia. He attended Wytheville Military Academy and received both A.B. and B.S. degrees from Hampden-Sydney College in 1895, winning medals for oratory and debate. In 1898 he received an LL.B. from the University of Virginia Law School, where he was awarded the Moot Court prize, his law school class’s highest honor. He went on to practice law in Wytheville and was a partner in Trinkle Brothers, a farming company. He was one of the organizers of the Shenandoah Life Insurance Company in Roanoke, serving as first vice president from 1916 to 1933, and then as president until his death. Prior to being elected governor, he was a member of the Virginia State Senate from 1915 to 1920. During his gubernatorial term, he was active in the National Governors Association, serving as Chairman of the Executive Committee. Initially a supporter of using bond financing for highway construction, he was eventually forced to place all state institutions on a pay-as-you-go basis, including the highway department, resulting in the financing of a road building program by gasoline and auto taxes rather than by bonds. During his administration, lawmakers raised public school teaching standards by adopting stricter licensing requirements and encouraging summer courses. Trinkle also received a medal from the National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor for supporting the exchange of prison-made goods between prisons of the various states. After leaving office, he served in a number of public and private capacities, among them president of the Virginia State Board of Education from 1930 until his death and president of the Children’s Home Society of Southwestern Virginia from 1935 to 1938.


The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 33. New York: James T. White & Company.

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols

Washington Post, November 26, 1939, p. 14 (obituary).

Willis, Leo Stanley. E. Lee Trinkle and the Virginia Democracy, 1876-1939. Thesis submitted to the University of Virginia, 1968.

Younger, Edward and Moore, James Tice, eds. The Governors of Virginia, 1860-1978. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1982.

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