Stanford E. Parris, 80

Stanford E. Parris, 80, dies; N.Va. member of Congress

Rep. Stanford E. Parris gets birthday wishes and campaign help from Vice President George H.W. Bush during his 1982 reelection fight.
Rep. Stanford E. Parris gets birthday wishes and campaign help from Vice President George H.W. Bush during his 1982 reelection fight. (Lucian Perkins/the Washington Post)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 29, 2010

Stanford E. Parris, 80, who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representative as a Republican from Northern Virginia's Eighth District, died March 27 of heart disease at his home in Mathews County, Va.

Mr. Parris, who was a lawyer and car dealer before entering politics, was first elected in 1972, then returned to Congress from 1981 to 1991. A onetime Air Force fighter pilot, he survived several hard-fought campaigns and was among the first Republicans to gain a foothold in modern-day Virginia politics.

During his first term in Congress, he won the gratitude of football fans by introducing a bill prohibiting the National Football League from imposing television blackouts of sold-out games. He supported efforts to improve transportation in Northern Virginia, including carpool lanes on Interstate 395, and helped transfer control of Dulles and National airports from the Federal Aviation Administration to a regional airport authority.

As ranking Republican on the House District Committee, he was a persistent critic of the D.C. government and often quarreled with then-Mayor Marion Barry. Mr. Parris also led an effort to move the D.C. prison from Lorton, which was finally accomplished after he left Congress.

Mr. Parris possessed a blunt, direct style that served him well on the campaign trail. He had three epic electoral battles with Democratic Rep. Herbert E. Harris II, losing in 1974 before ousting Harris from Congress in 1980. Mr. Parris defeated Harris in a rematch in 1982, spending $700,000 in Virginia's most expensive congressional campaign up to that point.

"They were tough campaigns," recalled U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who served in Congress with Mr. Parris. "They were almost like the Lincoln-Douglas debates."

Describing his political approach to The Washington Post in 1989, Mr. Parris said: "Somewhere along the line, I learned the best thing to do was to simply stand up and say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you commit to."

Stanford Elmer Parris was born Sept. 9, 1929, in Champaign, Ill., and was a graduate of the University of Illinois.

During the Korean War, he piloted fighter jets and was once rescued after being shot down over North Korea. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Air Medal.

He graduated from George Washington University law school in 1958, settled in Fairfax County and practiced law. He later owned car dealerships in Woodbridge and Manassas.

After serving on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1969, as one of nine Republicans in the body. He was Virginia's secretary of the commonwealth in 1978.

Mr. Parris unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1985 and 1989 and failed in a bid for the Virginia state Senate in 1995. After losing his congressional seat to James P. Moran Jr. (D) in 1990, he was administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. and was of counsel to the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro.

He was also a founder of the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, where he took part in aerobatic demonstrations.

In recent years, Mr. Parris lived in Mathews County and Melbourne, Fla.

His marriages to Jane McCullough Parris and Sonja Parris ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Martha Harper Parris of Mathews County and Melbourne; three children from his first marriage, Michael Parris of Los Angeles, Ann Parris of Culpeper and Susan Parris Littlewood of Mount Airy; and two grandsons.

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