Richard Harding Poff, a Republican who served ten terms in the U.S. House before resigning in 1972 to become a justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, has died at 87. Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Mr. Poff’s death today, but no details were immediately available.
A Radford native and decorated World War II veteran, Mr. Poff was elected to Congress in 1952 and built a solidly conservative voting record as the representative of his southwest Virginia district.
He played a key role in pushing President Richard M. Nixon’s anti-crime legislation through Congress and was considered a top candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court before withdrawing his name from consideration in 1971.
At the time, Mr. Poff said he took himself out of the running to spare his family and the nation a “long and divisive confirmation battle.” Many liberals opposed his nomination because of his votes on social issues, especially civil rights.
Mr. Poff had protested the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling against school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education and opposed much of the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s before recanting and supporting racial integration late in his career.
He was later appointed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, where he served until his retirement.
Richard Harding Poff was born Oct. 19, 1923 in Radford. He flew 35 successful missions over Europe as a bomber pilot during World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia.
“Justice Poff served his Commonwealth and country through times of both war and peace,” said Gov. McDonnell in a statement.
A full obituary will follow.