It was the year Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb tried to propel the state into high-tech but found himself plagued by problems in the state's prisons that his critics said were simply out of date.
Robb pushed the state toward more sophisticated industries through the creation of a state-supported Center for Innovative Technology. Northern Virginia staked its claim by snagging the center for a site near Dulles International Airport.
Old problems persisted. On May 31 Linwood Briley, a member of a Richmond gang blamed by authorities with 11 murders, his brother, James, and four other death-row inmates bolted from the state's Mecklenburg prison in the biggest death-row breakout in U.S. history. All were recaptured but the escape and other prison disruptions reopened an old debate over the state prison system that embarrassed Robb and led to the downfall of prison chief Robert Landon.
On Oct. 12 Linwood Briley was executed in Richmond, becoming the 26th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in 1976.
1984 was also the year that the state legislature attempted to set aside years of bitter racial debate and declared Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a state holiday. It also was the year, however, that a small cafe in Fauquier County was cited by the Justice Department on charges of refusing to serve blacks despite a 17-year-old federal court order.
The Northern Virginia landscape changed. A dispute over ownership of the Tysons II land tract was settled, the Dulles Toll Road opened, and the revival of the Alexandria waterfront took hold.