RICHMOND -- Harold Fleming Snead, 84, chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court from October 1969 until his retirement in September 1974, died Dec. 23 at his Henrico County home. The cause of death was not reported.

Judge Snead was Virginia's 21st chief justice, and his judicial career spanned 41 years.

When he accepted Judge Snead's retirement, Gov. Mills Godwin Jr. wrote that the justice "added immeasurably to the enviable reputation of Virginia's judiciary," and described him as "a popular, able and truly outstanding jurist."

Judge Snead earned the nickname "Nick" or "Nicky" as a child. "I used to tell the boys I got that nickname because I was so generous around Christmas time," he said in 1969.

Although born and reared in Richmond and associated with the Byrd Democratic organization, Judge Snead preferred not to be labeled politically.

He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1956 by Gov. Thomas Stanley.

During Judge Snead's tenure as chief justice, Williamsburg was chosen as the permanent headquarters for the National Center for State Courts.

In 1972, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association gave him its distinguished service award.

He had formerly headed the Association of Trial Justices of Virginia and the Judician Conference of Virginia.

Judge Snead received his bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond in 1925 and earned his law degree from the university's T.C. Williams School of Law.

After several years of private practice, Judge Snead was appointed as assistant trial justice of Henrico in 1933, and became a trial justice in 1935.

In 1948, the General Assembly elected him as a judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit, which included Henrico, where he remained until his appointment to the state high court.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth Somerville Call Snead, one daughter, Elizabeth Call Snead Dorset, and one brother, Edloe Bryan Snead, all of Richmond.