Madison Marye is a retired Army major who operates a small farm and service station in southwest Virginia.
As a member of the Virginia Senate, Marye represents four counties and two small cities in that part of the state, where the southern Blue Ridge Mountains fade into the Cumberlands.
It is a region of plain-talking plain folk, and Madison Marye is one of them. His oratorical style is parade ground country.When he speaks to the Senate, he does so with a voice that pierces the chamber that harmonizes with the preferred music of his district, which annually is the site of a celebrated fiddler's convention.
His style is particularly suitable for the points he wants to make.
Back in 1975, his second year in the Senate, Marye took the floor to ridicule the bureaucratic euphemisms that cloak the real purposes of state agencies by demanding that the Department of Corrections be renamed the Department of Punishment.
Later that year, when it appeared the Senate might approve an increase in the state's modest inheritance tax, Marye pierced the legislative conscience with the cry, "I did not come to Richmond to vote against widows and orphans."
Last year, Marye got involved in a bitter fight over the assembly's selection of a circuit court judge in his district. He opposed the nominee favoured by the local bar associations because the thought the prospective jurist had not done a good job of handing traffic cases during an earlier stint on a lower court.
When the lawyers won, Marye took the senate floor: "When I was a little boy and heard the preacher talk in church about 'crossing the bar', I always wondered what he meant. Now I know."
Last week, Marye was on his feet again, this time to urge his senate colleagues to attack the litter problem with a law requiring a deposit on all drink containers.
Addressing the president of the Senate, Marye began:
"An opponent in a political race once dubbed me 'Mad Madison' on a radio spot. My response was, 'You bet I'm mad. I'm mad about high taxes. I'm mad about inflation.' For some reason, I didn't hear any more about being 'Mad Madison' in my next campaign.
"Mr. president, I want you to know that 'Mad Madison' is going to strike again."
He then bespoke a citizen's fury over the throwaway litter that desecrates the Virginia countryside. He called the exisiting litter control laws useless and siupported a deposit law: "The time has come for us to turn the tide, face up to our responsibilities, ignore the olobbyist, do something to stop the further proliferation of litter."
Marye is not the first to declare war on little and the lobbyists for soft drink and beer distributors who resist deposit bills, but his personal fight against throwaways could be the one to watch.
It is a cause that has attracted crusaders of the general order and especially those who concentrate on the environment.
Marye is neither a crusader nor an environmentalist. He sat behind his Chippendale desk in his Senate office last week, wearing cowboy boots and a tie spangled with American flags, and gave another name for what he is: "I guess you would have to call me a propulist."
He said it with a quizzical look on his face, like a man who, after some hard puzzling, had at last figured himself out.
Being a populist has nit made Marye a supporter of all allegedly popular causes. For instance, he said: "I don't like the idea of post card registration of voters. I think everyone owes a little something to their country, at least enough to make the effort to go to the courthouse to register."
Marye's populism is the concrete approach to government through the experiences of an ordinary person:
"I think I know both sides of the litter problem," he said in an interview. "I've stood in my station returning a soft drink deposit to a boy while an impatient customer drove away. And I know how bad the storage of returned bottles can be when you don't have much space.
"But I'm disgusted when I drive out of the driveway at my farm and see a six-pack of beer bottles lying by the road. Last year, it cost me $58 to repair a tractor tire I ruined running over a throwaway bottle."
This is kind of populism that is tough for lobbyists. The abstract crusaders they can handle. But a legislator who knows it is possible to cope with empty soda bottles because he has done it and who knows what tractor tires cost - a legislator like that can be trouble.