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James R. Olin, 86; Former GE Executive, Roanoke Congressman

James R. Olin served 10 years in the U.S. House. He said he was proudest of his work on a wilderness protection bill affecting 81,000 acres in Virginia.
James R. Olin served 10 years in the U.S. House. He said he was proudest of his work on a wilderness protection bill affecting 81,000 acres in Virginia. (By Josh Meltzer -- Associated Press)

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From News Services
Friday, August 4, 2006

James R. Olin, 86, a former General Electric executive who represented Roanoke in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 1993, died July 29 at the Colonnades retirement community in Charlottesville. He had dementia.

Rep. Olin, a Democrat, served on the Agriculture and Small Business committees. He did not seek reelection in 1992.

During his House career, he voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991. A year later, he was one of 11 Democrats who had signed on as co-sponsors of a popular balanced budget amendment backed by President George H.W. Bush but who later reversed their stand and voted against the measure.

Rep. Olin, who had announced his retirement, said he was unconvinced by Bush's claims that the budget could be balanced simply by economic growth and a slowing of the growth of benefit programs such as Medicare.

"He gave us a choice of presidential cuff links or tie clips, paid for by the Republican National Committee. I took the cuff links," Rep. Olin told the Associated Press at the time of his meeting with Bush. "I don't think he was very persuasive."

Rep. Olin said he was proudest of his work on a wilderness protection bill affecting 81,000 acres in Virginia.

Before running for Congress, Rep. Olin worked for GE for 35 years, serving as corporate vice president and general manager of the company's industrial electronics division. He worked for the company in Schenectady, N.Y., Erie, Pa., and Salem, Va., near Roanoke, before retiring in 1982.

James Randolph Olin was born in Chicago and raised in Kenilworth, Ill. He was a 1943 electrical engineering graduate of Cornell University and was an Army Signal Corps veteran of World War II.

In 2003, he moved from Roanoke to Charlottesville.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Phyllis Avery Olin of Charlottesville; five children, Richard Olin of Charlottesville, Thomas Olin of Brooklyn, N.Y., Kathy Milliken of White Plains, N.Y., James Olin Jr. of Lutherville, Md., and Trina Santry of Arlington; 11 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.


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