Adelard L. 'Abe' Brault, 97; Influential N.Va. Senator

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Adelard L. "Abe" Brault, 97, a feisty Fairfax County Democrat who retired in 1983 after 18 years in the Virginia Senate, including a term as majority leader, died Feb. 13 at his home in Front Royal, Va. He had pneumonia.

For years, Mr. Brault was considered dean of the Northern Virginia delegation, and he used his authority to push through funding for the Metro system, George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College.

He and Sen. Omer L. Hirst (D-Fairfax-Falls Church) helped shape legislation and financing for the 13-mile Dulles Toll Road, built in 1984 to link Interstate 66 and the Capital Beltway with Dulles International Airport.

Mr. Brault was the majority leader from 1976 to 1980, largely because of a moderate-liberal coalition that successfully challenged the more conservative elements of the Senate. A conservative faction led by Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton) eventually removed Mr. Brault from the leadership. He described his loss as a "power play" meant to weaken Northern Virginia's influence.

Mr. Brault was known for blunt and critical commentary that he regarded as honesty and others sometimes found uncollegial. As a result, then-Gov. Charles S. Robb (D) appointed Mr. Brault to the State Board of Education in 1985, a year later than expected. The delay was attributed to Mr. Brault's criticism of the leadership ability of Sen. Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax).

Adelard Lionel Brault was born in Winsted, Conn., on April 6, 1909. He grew up in Washington, where he was a 1927 graduate of Gonzaga College High School and a 1933 graduate of Columbus Law School, now part of Catholic University. He served in the Navy in the North Atlantic during World War II.

He had a private law practice in Washington before the war and opened a practice in Fairfax County in the early 1950s, where he specialized in representing insurance companies. He was president of the Fairfax County Bar Association when he was appointed to the county Board of Supervisors in 1962 to fill the unexpired term of James Keith, who years later became a Virginia Circuit Court judge.

Mr. Brault did not seek reelection to the Senate in 1983, saying at the time, "Y'all can do what you want to next year. I'll be in Florida."

In 1991, state legislators renamed the Dulles Toll Road the Omer L. Hirst-Adelard L. Brault Expressway, which, having met the fate of many other such renamings of roads, bridges and buildings, has not readily been adopted by commuters.

Survivors include his wife, Clarice Covington "Percy" Brault of Front Royal; three children, Adelard L. Brault Jr. of Fairfax County, Nancy Supples of Front Royal and Mary Lynn Coleman of Moscow; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report.

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