Author: Frank B. Atkinson

Frank B. Atkinson is a partner and consultant with the McGuireWoods law firm and author of The Dynamic Dominion (1992), Virginia in the Vanguard (2006), and The Lion’s Den (2020). He chaired the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission and was counselor and policy director in the cabinet of Virginia governor George F. Allen
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John W. Warner III (1927–2021)

Throughout a long career in public life, John W. Warner III served as assistant U.S. attorney (1956–1960), undersecretary of the navy (1969–1972), secretary of the navy (1972–1974), and represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for three decades (1979–2009). Warner did not seek reelection in 2008, leaving him second only to Harry F. Byrd Sr. as the longest-serving senator from Virginia. Warner was born in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 1927, the son of Martha Budd Warner and John W. Warner Jr. Warner married banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon in 1957, with whom he had three children before divorcing in 1973. His 1976 marriage to actress Elizabeth Taylor attracted much attention before ending in divorce in 1982. Warner married Jeanne Vander Myde in 2003. As a U.S. Navy and Marine Corps veteran who served in two wars and former secretary of the navy, Warner made his greatest mark in the Senate on military and defense matters. He twice served as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he pressed for large investments and notable innovations in U.S. defense capabilities and championed better pay and benefits for military families. A moderate conservative with a penchant for independence and nontraditional approaches to problem solving, Warner occasionally departed from conservative Republican orthodoxy, thereby rankling some GOP partisans and earning him crossover Democratic support during a career that often seemed to transcend Virginia’s competitive two-party system. After leaving the Senate, he expressed alarm over the country’s worsening political polarization and several times supported Democratic candidates for president and the U.S. Senate, including the reelection bids of his successor, Mark R. Warner (no relation). Warner died of heart failure in Alexandria on May 25, 2021, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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John H. Winder (1800–1865)

John H. Winder was a Confederate general who served as provost marshal of Richmond (1862–1864) and commissary general of Confederate prisons (1864–1865) during the American Civil War (1861–1865). A career military officer, Winder served with distinction during both the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) and the Mexican War (1846–1848), but faced criticism from Union officials and, subsequently, historians for his management of Richmond’s wartime prisons and, beginning in June 1864, the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Described by his biographer as “short-tempered” and “aloof,” Winder was responsible for the Castle Thunder, Belle Isle, and Libby prisons when they became infamous in the North for their poor conditions. While he was at Andersonville, the mortality rate of Union prisoners surged as a result of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and poor rations. Winder’s defenders argue that he struggled with an inefficient Confederate bureaucracy and scarce resources, and that he instituted policies, late in the war, that reduced the number of prisoner deaths. He died of a heart attack in February 1865; his subordinate at Andersonville, Henry H. Wirz, was hanged later that year.

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First Rockbridge Artillery

The First Rockbridge Artillery was organized on April 29, 1861, in Lexington, Virginia, and served throughout the duration of the American Civil War (1861–1865), firing its first shot in anger at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, and fighting in most major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia until its surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Initially led by Lexington rector and West Point graduate William N. Pendleton, the battery quickly became renowned for its daring and firmness under fire as part of the Stonewall Brigade. Pendleton, with ecclesiastical panache, named the first four tubes of the battery “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John.”

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Republican Party of Virginia

The Republican Party is one of two major political parties in Virginia. Although founded in 1854 in opposition to the spread of slavery, the party did not take hold in Virginia until after the American Civil War (1861–1865). Even then, for nearly a century the Republicans were an ineffectual, minority party with only pockets of regional strength. During this period, the conservative Democratic Party dominated politics in Virginia and the rest of the South. After World War II (1939–1945), economic growth, demographic trends, electoral reforms, and policy debates combined to spur a realignment that gradually brought the Virginia parties into line philosophically with their national counterparts. As the center-right party in a conservative-leaning state, the Virginia Republican Party became consistently competitive. Following the mid-1970s, Virginia politics settled into a pattern characterized by active competition between the two major party organizations and their candidates. Partisan fortunes ebbed and flowed, but neither party established durable majority support on a statewide basis. In the twenty-first century Republican candidates in Virginia routinely compete with their Democratic rivals for the support of nonaligned voters (generally called “independents”) in addition to mobilizing fellow partisans.

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John N. Dalton (1931–1986)

John N. Dalton, a successful lawyer, businessman, and farmer, was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1966–1972) and the Senate of Virginia (1972–1973), and served as lieutenant governor (1974–1978) and as governor (1978–1982). He was the first Republican lieutenant governor of the twentieth century. His term as governor came during a period of dramatic realignment in which the Republican Party, long overshadowed by the Democratic Byrd Organization, became competitive in state elections for the first time in nearly a century. In fact, Dalton’s rapid climb from state legislator to governor paralleled Virginia’s transition from a one-party, Democratic state, typical of the “Solid South,” to a competitive, two-party system. The third in a trio of Republican governors of Virginia during the 1970s, Dalton stressed economic development, conservative fiscal management, and Republican party-building.