State Supreme Court Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. was elected Virginia's first black chief justice in a vote of his colleagues, the court announced.
Hassell, 47, will succeed Harry L. Carrico, who plans to retire Jan. 31 after 42 years on the court.
The election marks the first time the justices have selected a chief justice by popular vote rather than by seniority.
The General Assembly passed legislation authorizing the change this year.
Virginia's chief justice supervises the administration of the state's entire court system.