Lacey Putney was the Virginia Gentleman everyone respected. When he retired in 2013, the accolades and remembrances of his years in the Virginia House poured in from all corners of the Commonwealth.
On Saturday Virginia lost the legislative icon who passed away at the age of 89. Friend and colleague, Virginia House Speaker William Howell, wrote a moving tribute:
With a heavy heart I am sad to share that Virginia has lost an icon. The Honorable Lacey E. Putney passed away Saturday at the age of 89. The Virginia House of Delegates mourns the loss of an esteemed leader who was here long before any of us arrived, and whose legacy will live on long after all of us are gone.
“Throughout his 52 years in the House, Lacey came to embody what this institution stands for: productive public service, individual integrity, sound stewardship and so much more. He was dedicated to the legislature as a vital and necessary institution within state government, possessed an independent voice and always acquitted himself as a wise and effective legislator. He showed compassion for all with a caring and soft heart, was a man of action and responded to all his constituents with unconditional resolve exemplifying all that a true “citizen legislator” can and should be.
“During his historic tenure, he tirelessly served the constituents of the 19th House District, which encompassed many communities within central Virginia including the counties of Alleghany, Bedford, Botetourt, Franklin, and Rockbridge; and the cities of Bedford, Buena Vista, Covington, and Lexington. It was often said that ‘he was the gentleman from Bedford but was a gentleman of Virginia,’ serving his district and the House of Delegates with distinction. His capable leadership was consistently felt across our Commonwealth by so many for so long and with so much gratitude.
“Lacey served with 13 Governors, served as acting Speaker of the House of Delegates in 2003, and chaired the House Appropriations Committee and before that House Privileges and Election Committee. Lacey left the House having held the honor of the longest serving member in the history and was one of the longest serving members in all of our nation’s 99 legislative bodies.
“The House has lost a mighty oak tree, but we will benefit from the roots that Lacey established deeply within our co-equal branch of government. The Commonwealth will bear the fruit of his productive years of legislative service for many years to come. We are all grateful for the tremendous accomplishments he has left throughout the Old Dominion, from championing the creation of the Virginia Retirement System for state and local employees and initiating the Tuition Assistance Grant program for the benefit of students to safeguarding Virginia’s finances and establishing the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
“Lacey was a dear friend to me and many others. I will always remember his good-natured humor and unique ability to recall a story for any moment. During this sad time, Cessie and I pray for his very special wife Carmella, who Lacey deeply cherished, and Lacey’s children, Susan and Lacey Edward, Jr.
“Delegate Putney will lie in state in the Rotunda of the State Capitol, where flags will fly at half-mast in his memory. He will be the first House member to lie in state since Speaker A.L. Philpott in 1991. This respectful honor is a fitting tribute to the life and legacy of truly historic Virginian.”
It is the end of an era in Virginia history.