Saturday, October 5, 2013

Minetree Folkes Jr. (1908-1959)

From a 1938 composite photograph of the Virginia State House of Delegates.

   Following on the heels of the October 2nd write-up on Virginia state representative Cralle Fauntleroy Blackwell, we continue our stay in the "Old Dominion" state to highlight the life of Mr. Minetree Folkes Jr., a distinguished veteran of WWII who also served multiple terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. While his first name bears a remarkable similarity to the phrase "mini-tree", Folkes was not named after a very small tree, but inherited his first name from his father, a prominent local lawyer named Minetree Folkes (1870-1915) who had served as Commonwealth Attorney for Richmond from 1906-1915, dying in office in the last named year.
  Born in Richmond, Virginia on November 10, 1908, Minetree "Minnie" Folkes Jr. was the son of  Minetree Sr. and Mamie Wily Folkes. He received his primary education in the schools of Richmond and later graduated from the John Marshall High School in that city. Folkes was later enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute, where he was a standout cadet. A graduate of the class of 1929, Folkes had been a player on the institute's basketball, football and baseball teams, and earned his degree in Civil Engineering from this school. He would also go on to earn a law degree from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. Following his graduation he opened a law practice in Richmond and operated here for a number of years. 
  
                               From the 1929 edition of the Virginia Military Institute's Yearbook "The Bomb".

   Through his Richmond law practice, Folkes became active in Democratic party circles in Virginia's capital city, and in November 1937 was elected to represent Richmond in the State House of Delegates. Taking his seat in 1938, he sat on the house committees on Counties, Cities and Towns, General Laws, Immigration and Retrenchment and Economy. Folkes was reelected by his constituency in 1940 and 1942 and in the latter year resigned to take part in the ongoing war effort overseas.
   Minetree Folkes Jr. signed on for military service and in 1942 became a Major in the United States Marine Corps. He later gained distinction for leading the 3rd Battalion of the 21st Marines at the Battle of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, and on March 1 of that year suffered a critical war injury and lost his right leg, necessitating his evacuation to a military hospital in Guam. After recuperating, Folkes returned to the United States and was later fitted with a prosthetic limb. In spite of his grievous injury, Folkes lost no interest in his being a public servant, and a year after losing his leg became a candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia. Running in that year's primary for Virginia's 3rd district, Folkes faced off against incumbent Congressman Julian Vaughan Gary but was defeated at the polls. In August 1950 Folkes was again a candidate in the Democratic primary against Gary but was defeated for a second time, 12,504 votes to 8,573.
   Although he may have been defeated in both of the aforementioned primaries, Minetree Folkes returned to active political life in November 1952, when he won another term in the Virginia State House of Delegates. Taking his seat in January 1953, Folkes represented the counties of Henrico and Chestefield for the next three terms and during the 1958 legislative session served on the committees on Currency and Commerce, Privileges and Elections, Roads and Internal Navigation. Aside for his service in the legislature Folkes was active in a number of other non-political areas in Virginia, holding a seat on the board of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind as well as the Henrico County Chapter of the American Red Cross. 
   While still an incumbent representative Folkes was struck down by illness and died at age 51 on December 22, 1959 in a hospital in Richmond. His untimely death was mentioned by then Virginia Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. as a great loss for the state, noting that Folkes "demonstrated his capacity as one of the outstanding members of the General Assembly of Virginia. He was a great soldier for his country in her hour of distress and a great representative of his constituency." Following his death Minetree Folkes Jr. was interred at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, and was survived by his wife Frances Thornton Folkes (1909-2007) and a step-daughter, Elizabeth Gordon Milton.

Minetree Folkes Jr, from the 1954 composite portrait of the Virginia House of Delegates.

From the December 23, 1959 edition of the Kingston News.

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