Virginia honored one of her favorites, Thomas Ludwell Lee, by naming him to the 11-member Committee of Safety, the interim executive body created to fill the vacuum left by the flight of Lord Dunmore, the last of the Royal Governors. With the establishment of the Commonwealth, Thomas served in the Virginia Senate from 1776 to 1778, where he co-authored the resolution that directed the Virginia delegates to the Second Congress, “…to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states.” With the adoption of that resolution, Virginia became the first state to officially declare for separation from Britain. News of this reached Richard Henry in Philadelphia as he was preparing to deliver to Congress his famous motion for an independent America. The timing could not have been better; it provided both Richard Henry and Congress the momentum needed to push through the resolution for independence.
Though he preferred local politics to those at the national level, Thomas’ tenacious support of his brothers and the daring ideals they represented kept Virginia at the forefront of political thought and action. As a Virginia legislator Thomas worked to revise state laws, and Virginia served not only as an inspiration to other colonies but became an archetype on which the new American government would be based.
The career of this much beloved man was cut short soon after his election to Virginia’s first supreme court. At the age of 48 he died of rheumatic fever.