Local bar association presents the honor
By Ginny Wray
Michael Cannaday was the only person who ever ran against W. Roscoe Reynolds in his 17 years as Henry County commonwealth’s attorney.
Cannaday lost that election but he apparently thought enough of Reynolds that he put his name on a list of people to be honored with the Michael W. Cannaday Award. The honor recognizes a person in the legal community who “embodies the spirit of service, good humor and the outgoing personality” that Cannaday exemplified, according to online accounts.
On April 24, the Martinsville-Henry County Bar Association presented that award to Reynolds in a ceremony at the Henry County Courthouse.
About 75 people — including many members of the legal community and friends and relatives of both Reynolds and Cannaday — listened as Circuit Court Judge David Williams detailed Reynolds’ career and the part Cannaday had in it.
Reynolds graduated from Martinsville High School, majored in political science at Duke University and received his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law. He was an assistant Henry County commonwealth’s attorney to Kenneth Covington, and when Covington became a judge, Reynolds became commonwealth’s attorney in 1968.
Williams recalled that Reynolds was opposed for re-election only once during his tenure as commonwealth’s attorney. That challenger was an “upstart lawyer,” Mike Cannaday, who lost to the veteran prosecutor.
That prosecutor, Williams said, was “tough but fair.”
In 1985 Reynolds successfully ran for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Williams was appointed commonwealth’s attorney to succeed him. But Williams was not the first choice for the job — Cannaday was, but he turned the job down, Williams said.
Reynolds served in the House from 1986 to 1997 and the Virginia Senate from 1997 until 2012. He lost his re-election bid by 650 votes to now-Sen. Bill Stanley of Franklin County.
“No legislator in our area worked more tirelessly” for his constituents than Reynolds, Williams said.
But what most impressed Williams, he said, was when he went to Richmond to be reappointed to the bench, “every 10 feet” people would ask “‘Roscoe, how’re you doing?’” Those people were staff members, police officers, janitors and others. Reynolds, Williams said, “was a rock star.”
Reynolds has maintained his private law practice since he left the General Assembly.
“Nobody has served the interest of justice and the legal system better than Roscoe Reynolds. No one deserves this award more,” Williams said, before he admonished Reynolds that he “knew the drill.”
With that, Reynolds walked out of the back of the courtroom and stood at the doors. With a booming voice that was reminiscent of Cannaday, he bellowed, “I accept this award.”
Reynolds thanked the bar association, Cannaday’s family and “everyone else who had a hand” in the award, which included a plaque, check and bottle of wine.
Awbrey J. Watts, president of the local bar association, said that association follows Cannaday’s list of recipients in presenting the award each year. She could not say how many names are on the list. “They are people he picked, people who exemplify the legal profession,” she said.
Cannaday was a 1966 graduate of Drewry Mason High School, a 1970 graduate of the University of Virginia, and a 1973 graduate of the Marshall Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. Following graduation from law school, He returned to Henry County and set up his own law practice in Collinsville. He was in private practice from 1973 until his death in 2015.
During his 42-year practice, Cannaday was a member of the Virginia State Bar as well as the Martinsville-Henry County Bar Association, where he served as past president. He also was a past recipient of a Virginia State Bar Association award for his contributions to the state judicial system for his pro bono and court-appointed work, according to online accounts.
He also was active in the Boy Scouts, Jaycees, the Presbyterian Church and other groups and activities.
Several members of Cannaday’s family were present for the ceremony, including his 95-year-old mother, Evelyn Cannaday. She worked for her son throughout his entire legal career.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said of the award presentation. “I miss Mike so much.”
Cannaday’s brother, Paul, added that Reynolds was a deserving recipient of the award.
Members of Reynolds’ family were present, including his wife, Linda; son, Andrew; grandson, William Robert; and daughter-in-law, Shannon.
Also in the audience was former Del. Ward Armstrong, a lawyer who served in the General Assembly with Reynolds.
He quipped that in January and February each year when the two served in Richmond, “I spent more time with Roscoe than (his wife) Linda did.”
“There is no more dedicated public servant” than Reynolds, whether it was as commonwealth’s attorney or in the General Assembly, Armstrong said. Cannaday, he added, would be pleased that Reynolds received the honor.