Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Vernoy Brownie Tate (1894-1964)

Portrait courtesy of the Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia, 1988.

   A prominent son of Wise County, Virginia, Vernoy Brownie Tate served as Commonwealth's Attorney for that county and was later elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for one term in the late 1940s. A lifelong resident of Wise County, Vernoy Brownie Tate was born on July 30, 1894, one of ten children born to Benjamin Franklin and Margaret Lydia Stewart Tate. He would be a student in the public schools of Appalachia, Virginia and graduated from that town's high school in 1912. Tate later decided upon a career in law and began study at the Richmond College's Law School, earning his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1918.
   At the dawn of American involvement in WWI Tate signed on for service and would see action overseas with the Ninth Infantry, U.S. Second Division, participating at the Argonne Offensive in August 1918. In 1922 Tate married at Lynchburg to Alpha Mae Gough, with whom he would have two children, Franklin Glover (1927-2003) and Nancy Stewart (born 1929).
   In the early 1920s Tate began the practice of law in Wise County, and over the succeeding years "established himself as a lawyer of ability and one well fitted to the office of commonwealth attorney". In 1924 Tate announced his candidacy for the aforementioned office and in November defeated Republican nominee David F. Kennedy by a "good majority." Tate served one term as commonwealth attorney for Wise County and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1927, losing the race to "independent Democrat" William W.G. Dotson by just 24 votes!
   After his 1927 defeat, Vernoy Tate continued to operate his law practice in Wise, Virginia and reentered political life in 1943 when he was elected as Wise County's representative to the State House of Delegates. His two terms in office (1944-48) saw him sit on the house committees on Appropriations, Courts of Justice, Manufactures and Mechanic Arts, Mining and Mineral Resources, and Special Private and Local Legislation, and, as it turns out, was one of several oddly named incumbent delegates during the 1944-48 sessions. One of those delegates, Cralle Fauntleroy Blackwell (1897-1976), received a profile here back in October of 2013.

                                                   Vernoy Tate, from the 1946 House of Delegates composite.

   Tate's life following his legislative service saw him continue in the practice of law, as well as maintaining memberships in several fraternal groups, including the Masons, Shriners, and Kiwanis Clubs. Tate also held the presidency of the Wise County Bar Association, his exact dates of service in that office being unknown at this time. After many years of public service to Wise County at both the local and state level, Vernoy B. Tate died on January 21, 1964, at age 69. His wife Alma survived him by nearly a decade, dying in 1973 at age 74. Following her passing, she was interred alongside him at the Wise Cemetery in Wise, Virginia.

                                               Tate's obituary from the Kingsport Times, January 22, 1964.

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