Our Man in Arlington

April 9, 2009 4:26 PM0 comments

Two funerals occurred within the last week that brought home once again the rich political and cultural history of Arlington over the last half century or so.

Jane Gallien Vitray was not an Arlingtonian, but was so close politically to the Arlington Democratic Party in her long-time role as one of the major activists in Northern Virginia that we often lost sight of that fact.

Jane began her long involvement in politics in the early 1960′s when she went door-to-door to register voters in connection with her leadership in the fight to end segregation in Virginia. This is where she began to form connections with Arlington Democrats working toward the same goals and working, successfully, to end the dominance of the Byrd Organization in state politics. Jane went on to become the Chair of the Fairfax Democratic Party, and a leader in numerous local, state and national campaigns including those of “Gus” Johnson and George Rawlings for Congress, treasurer for Chuck Robb’s campaign for Lt. Governor, Governor, and Senator, and in the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter. She remained active for the rest of her life.

One vivid personal memory was a meeting with Northern Virginia Democratic Party leaders where we were trying to convince Howell to run for Governor as a Democrat rather than as an Independent. After extensive conversation, Howell bellowed out, “You don’t understand! The rest of Virginia knows that Northern Virginia Democratic politics are run by women! They don’t like it!” We looked around the room – and found that a large majority indeed were women. Nevertheless, Jane ultimately became a leader in Howell’s campaign for Governor – as a Democrat. He lost

Early in her career, she formed a Democratic Ladies Lunch Group that met once a month until just a couple of months ago.

Jane will be missed.

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Last Saturday evening, Jean and I were attending a reception at the Washington Golf and Country Club when we noticed that the club’s flags were at half mast. That was when we learned that Ken Haggerty had died the day before.

Ken was a two-term Republican member of the Arlington County Board from 1966 – 1973 and served as Chairman in 1969.

Ken was also a leader of the party in 1975, when I ran for County Board against two Republicans and lost – proving that Democrats can be defeated in Arlington (at least in the 1970′s). No hard feelings, though.

Political parties aside, Ken was a good member of the Board and not one of the troglodyte Republicans who were basically the remnants of the Byrd Organization. Through the 1970′s and 1980′s, we worked together on many economic development issues for Arlington, and we served together on the George Mason University Board of Visitors in the mid-1980′s.

Ken remained a leader in many community organizations up to the time of his death. He too will be missed.

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