Jane Gallien Vitray, 85

Jane Vitray, 85, Dies; Activist Fought Segregation, Campaigned for Democrats

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jane Gallien Vitray, 85, who took part in voter registration drives during the waning days of racial segregation in Northern Virginia and who later served as head of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee during a long career as a political activist, died March 29 of complications from cancer at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. She was a resident of Vienna.

In the early 1960s, Mrs. Vitray and her husband, G. Alain Vitray, registered voters door-to-door in the African American neighborhoods of Northern Virginia. They also provided rides to the registrar's office and to the polls. In addition, they were leaders in the fight to end segregation in Fairfax County schools.

When Mrs. Vitray's husband died in 1967, she went back to school to get her teaching certificate in government at George Mason University, but instead of teaching, she plunged into politics. She held leadership positions in a number of statewide campaigns, including the congressional campaigns of Augustus C. "Gus" Johnson and George C. Rawlings Jr. and Henry Howell's campaign for governor. She was the first woman elected chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. She served two terms.

She also served in the Office of Women's Affairs of the National Democratic Committee under then-Chairman Robert Strauss and in that role helped plan the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York. She worked on the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter and later served as campaign treasurer for Charles S. "Chuck" Robb in his campaigns for lieutenant governor, governor and senator. She also served as an aide to Del. Raymond E. Vickery Jr..

From 1982 to 1993, she was secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board.

In retirement, Mrs. Vitray continued to be politically involved. She also was an active member of Vienna Presbyterian Church, where she served as an elder, a Circle member and a supporter of the Haiti Mission Project.

She was a past chair of the Fairfax County Commission for Women and was instrumental in starting the first shelter for battered women in the county, established in 1978. She also served on the State Commission for Women and helped found two groups dedicated to encouraging women to become politically active -- "Good Ole Girls" and "The Farm Team."

Mrs. Vitray was born in Hoboken, N.J., and received her undergraduate degree from Bucknell University in 1945.

Survivors include four children, Janine Vitray Mohl of Vienna, Robert Vitray of Austin, Randall Vitray of Malvern, Pa., and Richard Vitray of Altamonte Springs, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

-- Joe Holley

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