James Keith, 90, a retired Virginia circuit court judge who was chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the late 1950s, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 26 at his Fairfax City home.

Judge Keith, who served on the board from 1956 to 1962, was a proponent of an urban county plan established as a legal barricade to annexation and incorporation of county land.

Part of a ruling bloc of conservative Democrats on the board, he supported big purchases of land for parks, a school building program and pay raises for teachers. He also helped in the development of the Fairfax County Water Authority.

He resigned when the Fairfax City area he represented was incorporated. Four years later, he was appointed to the 16th Judicial Circuit. He retired from the 19th Judicial Circuit in 1979.

Judge Keith, a native of Warrenton, was a 1928 graduate of the old Stuyvesant School there. He was a 1932 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and received a law degree from Harvard University.

During World War II, he served in the Army with the Military Intelligence Service.

He began his law career with the firm of Barbour, Garnett and Pickett and practiced in Fairfax from 1935 to 1966. In the 1960s, he represented the Fairfax County School Board as it attempted to slow desegregation orders.

In 1951, he narrowly lost a Democratic primary for state delegate from Fairfax.

He received the Virginia State Bar Lewis Powell Pro Bono Award in 1995 for his work from the late 1970s to the early 1990s as a volunteer in the Fairfax offices of the Legal Aid Society.

He was a member of the Fairfax Civic Federation, Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, Fairfax chapter of the American Red Cross, Virginia Historical Society and Fairfax Historical Society.

Judge Keith also was a member of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax City; he was a member of the vestry and taught Sunday school.

His wife, Anne Harrison Byrd Keith, whom he married in 1940, died in 1994.

Survivors include two children, John Keith and Maria Byrd Macfarlane, both of Fairfax; and five grandchildren.