Sunday, May 26, 2019

Burder Bunyon Bowman (1860-1951)

Portrait from the 1908-09 Virginia House of Delegates composite.

    An obscure resident of Shenandoah County, Virginia, Burder Bunyon Bowman lived to the age of 91 and, despite that longevity, has scant information available on his life and political career. A lifelong resident of the Old Dominion State, Bowman was a farmer who was elected to three consecutive terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and later achieved further political distinction by being a two time Republican National Convention delegate and a Presidential Elector for Virginia. The son of Joseph and Sarah Ann (Johnson) Bowman, Burder Bunyon Bowman was born in Edinburg, Virginia on February 27, 1860. 
   Born and raised on his family's farm in Edinburg, Bowman studied at schools local to Edinburg, including "a subscription school, then one of the early one-room free schools", before graduating from the Edinburg High School. After completing his schooling Bowman followed the career of a gentleman farmer, raising on his family's farm "wheat, corn, hay, and livestock" and by the mid-1920s owned a farm that comprised two-hundred and fifty acres "along the north branch of the Shenandoah River." 
  In August 1905 Burder Bowman was a delegate to the Shenandoah County Republican Convention at Edinburg and was nominated for the state house of delegates by his fellow Republicans. He would win the election that November and after taking his seat at the start of the 1906-08 session was named to the committees on Agriculture and Mining, Militia and Police, and Privileges and Elections. Bowman won his second house term in November 1907 and during the 1908-10 session was a member of the same committees listed above.
   As a candidate for a third term in November 1909, Bowman's two previous terms of service were acknowledged by the Richmond Journal as having been marked by a "close application to duty". However, the opinion of Bowman was not shared by Shenandoah County Democrats, who excoriated him in several articles printed in the Shenandoah County Herald's October 29, 1909 edition. Aside from printing a large blank space devoted to Bowman's accomplishments during his two previous terms in the house, the Herald further slandered Bowman by describing him as a tool of the state Republican machine and denoted his service as having been "ornamental", rather than useful, stating: 
"Mr. Bowman has been called on to show one single thing he has done for the people of Shenandoah County during his four years in the legislature. He has even been asked to write one single act, in the blank record which appeared in the County papers. But, alas, up to this time that record is as blank as the day it was put there. Mr. Bowman thus admitting he has done nothing. Why then should he be returned to the Legislature?"
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 6, 1908.

  Despite being pilloried by state Democrats, Burder B. Bowman won his third term in the state house in November 1909 and beginning in January 1910 again served on the committees on Militia and Police, and Privileges and Elections. Several months into his term, the Richmond Journal lauded Bowman's time in state government, giving an exact opposite characterization of what the Shenandoah Herald had made of his service. In this summation of his career (which was later reprinted in the Herald), Bowman was remarked as having been:
"A progressive public spirited citizen and one whose standing in the community is of the highest. Both at home and in the legislative halls he has earned the respect of all because of his straightforward, upright manner of doing business."
   After leaving the legislature Bowman continued to be politically active, being an alternate delegate from Virginia to the 1916 Republican National Convention and in 1924 was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that nominated Calvin Coolidge for the Presidency. Four years later he served as a Republican presidential elector for Virginia, casting his ballot for Herbert Hoover. Bowman was also an unsuccessful Republican candidate for State Commissioner of Agriculture and Immigration in 1917.
  In addition to his political doings, Burder Bowman was a former president of the Farmer's Bank of Edinburg, serving in that post between 1919 and 1924. A lifelong bachelor, Bowman died at the age of 91 on April 27, 1951, in his home city of Edinburg. He was interred next to his older sister Sarah (1848-1924) in a plot at the Old Edinburg Cemetery.


From the 1910-11 Virginia House of Delegates composite.

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