Outstanding Virginian Award

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia established the Outstanding Virginian Award to honor recipients whose distinguished contributions, outstanding achievements, and dedicated leadership serve as an inspiration to all civic-minded citizens. The award, considered the Commonwealth’s highest honor, was first presented to United States Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr. in 1983. 

The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the General Assembly-appointed Outstanding Virginian Committee co-host the annual Outstanding Virginian Award Ceremony to honor the year’s recipient(s) in a celebration that includes their family members, friends, and admirers. Proceeds realized from the event support the Outstanding Virginian Bicentennial Scholarship at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.  

Rita Forrester

2022 Recipient: Rita Janette Forrester

The Outstanding Virginian Committee and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy announced Rita Forrester as the 2022 recipient of the Outstanding Virginian Award. Forrester was honored at the Virginia State Capitol on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

“We’re proud to have such a wonderful member of the Commonwealth be honored as this year’s Outstanding Virginian,” said Chair of the Outstanding Virginian Committee John B. Adams, Jr. “Rita Forrester and her family have provided generations of Virginians with bluegrass music through their enduring family legacy.”

Forrester is the executive director of the Carter Family Fold, an 880-seat amphitheater in Scott County, where visitors from around the world come to hear music inspired by the Carter family. As the granddaughter of the legendary AP and Sara Carter, Forrester ensures the cultural legacy of the “First Family of Country Music” lives on and inspires future generations through weekly performances of old-time and bluegrass music.

Forrester emcees the shows, books the performers, and supervises staff and volunteers of the Fold as they host over 50,000 visitors a year. The Carter Family Fold stage has been graced by many country music legends including Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, and Marty Stuart.

Outstanding Virginian Committee

  • John B. Adams, Jr.

  • The Honorable Thomas H. Anderson, Jr.

  • Leslie S. Ariail

  • James W. Fletcher, III

  • John H. H. Graves

  • John D. Hardesty, Jr.

  • James E. Rich

  • Charles H. Seilheimer, Jr.

  • Ian H. Solomon

Recipients of the Outstanding Virginian Award

2022        Rita Janette Forrester

2021        No recipient

2020        William H. Goodwin, Jr.

2019        The Honorable W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. and Mrs. Helen Turner Murphy

2018        The Honorable William J. Howell

2017        Bruce C. Gottwald and Floyd D. Gottwald, Jr.

2016        No recipient

2015        Maestro Lorin V. Maazel and Dietlinde Turban Maazel

2014        Eugene P. Trani

2013        William B. Holtzman

2012        The Honorable John H. Hager

2011        Arthur W. (Nick) Arundel

2010        The Honorable John W. Warner

2009        Charles F. Bryan, Jr. 

2008        Ralph E. Stanley

2007        Senator Mark R. Warner

2006        Daniel P. Jordan

2005        Elizabeth H. Haskell

2004        Lora M. Robins

2003        Oliver W. Hill

2002        John T. Hazel, Jr. and William A. Hazel

2001        Brenton S. Halsey

2000        The Honorable Alson H. Smith, Jr.

1999        Timothy J. Sullivan

1998        Mary P. Mathews

1997        The Honorable Hunter B. Andrews

1996        Sydney and Frances Lewis

1995        The Honorable George M. Cochran IV and Marion Lee Cochran

1994        The Honorable Gerald L. Baliles

1993        John T. Casteen, III

1992        The Honorable A. Linwood Holton

1991        Ronald E. Carrier

1990        The Honorable Harry L. Carrico

1989        The Honorable Dorothy S. McDiarmid

1988        The Honorable John O. Marsh, Jr.

1987        The Honorable Charles S. Robb

1986        James C. Wheat

1985        The Honorable J. Kenneth Robinson

1984        The Honorable Mills E. Godwin, Jr.

1983        The Honorable Harry F. Byrd, Jr.