Virginia’s longest-serving commonwealth’s attorney, Paul B. Ebert, was honored at the Prince William County courthouse Friday for his 40-plus years of service to the community.
During the afternoon event, friends, family and colleagues unveiled a portrait of Ebert that will hang across from his office, alongside his predecessors. The portrait, by Wendell Powell Studio in Richmond, was suggested by some of the numerous people Ebert has touched during his 43 years as a commonwealth’s attorney.
“We see all these nice, distinguished gentlemen hanging [on the walls] around the courthouse,” Prince William area lawyer William Stephens said. “It dawned on me” that Paul Ebert should be one of them. “He has touched so many people.”
When Ebert was elected to the position in 1968, he was the youngest commonwealth’s attorney in the state, colleagues said. Now, he is the oldest.
During his time as commonwealth’s attorney he has prosecuted drug, murder and child-abuse cases. He has sent more than a dozen people to death row and incarcerated countless criminals. But he has also been a supporter of programs that provide alternatives to jail.
“He’s very fair,” said Ebert’s son, Pete. “He’s always said the law shouldn’t be so stringent that you don’t give somebody a second chance. He’s also never lost his belief in humanity, even though he’s seen the darker side of it.”
Friends said Ebert has maintained his position for so many years because he is tough but fair. He is respected across the county, and while he’s serious in the courtroom, he’s also quick to crack a joke.
And his sense of humor didn’t disappoint the crowd of more than 50 people Friday.
“I’m honored, but usually this doesn’t happen unless you’re retired or dead,” said Ebert, 73. “I wish you would have done this when I had more hair.”
Ebert was born in Roanoke and moved to Northern Virginia when he was a child. He got a degree in business administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a law degree from George Washington University.
Prior to becoming commonwealth’s attorney, Ebert served as a justice of the peace for the City of Falls Church and as the assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Prince William.
Ebert said the last 40-plus years have gone by quickly because it didn’t feel like work. Ebert said he attributes his success to his staff.
Looking back on his career, he said one of the most complex and notorious cases he prosecuted was that of sniper John Allen Muhammad, who was executed in 2009. Ebert was selected by former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft to prosecute Muhammad.
Ebert is a member of numerous associations and the recipient of countless awards. And he’s not done yet. Ebert said it is “very likely” he will run for another term in office.
“I hope we can continue working [together], but one day I may not be able to,” Ebert said during the event. “But my portrait will still be here and people will look at it and say, ‘Who is that old bird?’ ”
For more about Ebert, read Thursday’s Prince William Local Living.