By Lynn R. Mitchell
Polly Campbell stood Friday on the front porch of the historic and stately Mimslyn Inn overlooking Luray and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She and I had made plans for lunch but she didn’t know a couple of friends would be joining us and that she was to receive a commemorative resolution from the Republican Party of Virginia honoring and thanking her for more than 50 years of service to the party. She was also actively involved in the Page County Republican Committee during those years. (See Polly Yager Campbell … growing up in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park.)
This photo is of Governor John Dalton and Polly circa somewhere around 1979. These two were Young Republicans and lifelong friends. When they began working within the party in the early 1960s, the Democratic Byrd Machine was in control of Virginia but the generation that included Polly and Governor Dalton saw that change as they worked to bring the Republican Party into relevance.
From Encyclopedia Virginia: “Although the Daltons hailed from the western ‘Mountain and Valley’ region, where Republicans tended to be centrist in their political outlook, John Dalton became a leading advocate in the 1970s for a party-building strategy that stressed recruiting conservative converts from the ranks of former Democrats. In this, he was allied closely with Richard D. Obenshain, the Republican state chairman, and with Byrd-Organization Democrats such as former governor Mills Godwin. Godwin exited the Democratic Party as its more liberal faction gained control early in the 1970s, and ran for governor again as a Republican in 1973. Dalton joined the Godwin ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor, and the pairing helped to cement an alliance between the Republican moderates from the west and the conservative former Democrats in the eastern two-thirds of the state. Dalton simultaneously cultivated ties to the state’s moderate-conservative business establishment and projected a youthful, energetic appeal to the state’s fast-growing suburban areas.”
At a reception at the Executive Mansion after he took office, Polly mentioned she didn’t have a picture of Governor Dalton so he sent an aide to retrieve this one and then inscribed it to Polly, and it still sits proudly on her fireplace mantle. (See John Dalton’s bio in Encyclopedia Virginia.)
One wall in Polly’s family room holds political pictures of Governor John Dalton, Governor George Allen, Governor Jim Gilmore, President Ronald Reagan, and other leaders she admired. The lower middle picture is Polly with George and Susan Allen.
Front portico of the newly-renovated, historic Mimslyn Inn on Main Street in Luray, Virginia.
These three Page County natives have been involved with the local Republican committee for years. Billie’s husband was former mayor of Shenandoah and member of RPV’s State Central Committee, Jonathan was chairman of the Page County Republican Committee for a number of years, and Polly was secretary of State Central for 44 years.
While enjoying lunch, we presented the framed resolution to Polly as a token of appreciation for her sacrifices throughout the years (see Resolution honoring Polly Campbell for 50 years with Republican Party of Virginia). She was born into a third generation Lincoln Republican family at a time when it was very unpopular. Because Democrats controlled everything, her family was often ostracized and left out because of their conservative beliefs which was instrumental in Polly’s political involvement to make a change. She formed the Young Republican chapter in Page County in the early 1960s, attended national conventions, and worked to elect Republican candidates.
In July 1968, Polly was elected as secretary of the State Central Committee and served until August 2012. It was a job she took seriously, keeping minutes that provided a historical perspective of the party throughout the years. She has been friends with those who became governors, congressmen, senators, presidents, judges. She was appointed by Governors John Dalton, George Allen, and Jim Gilmore to the Virginia Board of Nursing, something she did not seek so was surprised when she received it, but typical of Polly, she dove in to work hard and committed time and energy to that board.
During the eight years I served on the State Central Committee, Polly went about her duties in the professional manner expected of RPV’s governing board, always present at meetings and other official functions. She and I completed our terms in 2012.
Lunch with these three was a fascinating conversation of politics, past and present, along with Page County history and genealogy. We were still there long after the dining room, that had been packed with diners, emptied.
Murals on the walls, white linen tablecloths and napkins … gracious dining reminiscent of a time gone by. Friday’s buffet was $10.95 for an extensive variety of salads, entrees, sides, and desserts, or order from the menu.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 17, 2014