Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wrendo Marion Godwin (1896-1976)

From the 1938 Virginia House of Delegates composite photograph.

    The Virginia state legislature (the House of Burgesses and later, the House of Delegates) have existed in one form or another for nearly 400 years, and, as one of the oldest existing legislative bodies in world history, has yielded a bevy of funny named political figures (as evidenced by Tuesday's write-up on Cardinal Richelieu Coleman.) The man profiled today, Accomack County delegate Wrendo Marion Godwin, is yet another example of an interestingly named individual to be elected to Virginia's legislature, serving multiple terms in office.
   The first of two sons born to William P. and Susan Poulson Godwin, Wrendo Marion Godwin was born on September 22, 1896, in Poulson, Virginia. Bestowed the unusual first name "Wrendo" upon his birth, Godwin received his schooling at the Hargrave Military Institute in Chatham, Virginia and later attended the University of Richmond. He married to Elsie May Houchins and later had three children, William (1919-1991), Richard A. (1920-2001) and Betty Jane Godwin Crockett (deceased.) 
    An attorney for over forty years in the Accomack County area, Godwin also found distinction in a number of areas not related to politics or law, including service as moderator of the Accomack Baptist Association, the Elks and Lions Club, the Parksley Virginia Lodge No. 166 of the Order of the Eastern Shrine and the Parksley Three Arts Club. Godwin is also recorded as a 32nd-degree Mason, being a member of the Parksley Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
   In the late 1930s, Wrendo M. Godwin began treading the political waters, being elected to the Virginia State House of Delegates from the county of Accomack. Serving in the legislative session of 1938-1939, Godwin was named to the house standing committees on the Chesapeake and its Tributaries, Officers and Offices at the Capitol, Public Property and Roads, and Internal Navigation. 
  After leaving the legislature at the conclusion of the 1939 term Godwin returned to practicing law in Accomack County and continued to ply his trade until 1947 when he was reelected to the House of Delegates. During the 1948-50 session he sat on the committees on Agriculture, General Laws and Enrolled Bills, and in the first year of his service (1948) became a member of the Virginia State Democratic Committee, as well as serving as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention being held in Philadelphia.

Wrendo M. Godwin, pictured on the 1954 Virginia House of Delegates composite portrait.

   The years 1950-1955 saw Wrendo Godwin continuing to represent Accomack County in the House of Delegates, and during these terms continued service on the previously mentioned committees, and served as chairman of the house committee on Enrolled Bills. During his final legislative term in 1955 Godwin announced his candidacy for a seat in the Virginia State Senate primary, and during that contest was pitted against former Accomack County Commonwealth Attorney and Democratic County chairman Edward Almer Ames Jr. (1903-1987).

                Godwin's 1955 senate  platform from the Virginia Beach Sun-News (click to enlarge.)

   Running on a campaign platform touting his experience "in the serious business of lawmaking" Godwin's senate candidacy received a substantial write-up in the Virginia Beach Sun New's July 7th edition (shown above.) In said write-up Godwin himself gave a lengthy statement explaining his past legislative experience and political convictions, noting that:
"My experience as a member of the House of Delegates from Accomack County for the past eight years wil be of great value to the people I seek to represent if elected to the senate. It takes just about that long to get your hand in, so to speak, to make your friends and contacts, and learn the "know how" of getting legislation passed. I feel that I am better qualified than my opponent who has had no experience whatsoever with law making. His lack of experience will be a definite disadvantage to the people of Princess Anne County, though he may be qualified in every other way.....Many important issues and grave matters will come before the next legislature requiring the best thought and talent of our most experienced legislators. Those men with the greatest past experience in the Legislature will be more qualified and better able to deal with these most perplexing problems. My past experience will serve me well and result in a greater benefit to the people I seek to represent. I will earnestly and sincerely appreciate your vote."
   While the above newspaper article played to Godwin's political experience and prior terms in the legislature, he came up short in the vote count, losing in the July 13th primary to Ames, who went on to serve in the state senate until 1967. Following his defeat, Godwin continued the practice of law in Accomack County and later was elected as the president of the Accomack County Bar Association, serving in 1963-64. Wrendo M. Godwin died at age 79 on January 8, 1976 at his home in Virginia. He was survived by his wife Elsie and his three children and was later interred at the Parksley Cemetery in Parksley, Virginia.

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