Richard Poff represented the 6th District of Virginia when I wrote for The Floyd Press in high school and later The Roanoke Times. He was the first politician I covered as a newspaperman.
He won his 6th District seat in 1952 while still in his 20s — capturing a post held by Democrats since reconstruction.
Dick Poff turned down a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court — a position friends knew he wanted. He said he didn’t want to subject his family to a bitter confirmation fight, which was certain because he had signed the “Southern Manifesto,” a document that claimed states had the right to reject federal-ordered integration of schools.
When I interviewed him about turning down the nomination, he said he signed the manifesto because it was something Southern politicians did at the time but claimed that he “knew segregation was wrong.”
Poff greeted you with bone-crunching handshake. He laughed about his thining hairline and said “no grass grows on a busy street.”
At a hearing on moonshine running in Southwestern Virginia the then-head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tax and Firearms complained to Poff that ATF agents sometimes disappeared when investigating the illegal history trade in Floyd and Franklin Counties.
“My advice to you is to stop sending agents down there,” Poff said.
Gov. Linwood Holton appointed Poff to the Virginia Supreme Court in 1972. He was the first Republican member of the Court since the 1800s.
The 87-year-old Poff died Tuesday.