Like any number of veteran voters, L. Garland Kendrick remembers Franklin Delano Roosevelt well. He also remembers Teddy Roosevelt.
Kendrick voted for only one Roosevelt--FDR -- because he was too young to vote for Teddy in the 1904 presidential election, and besides, Teddy was a Republican then. But Kendrick did vote in the next presidential election in 1908, picking Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who lost to Republican William Howard Taft. At least Kendrick thinks he picked Bryan, since Kendrick voted only for Democrats at the time.
At 95, Kendrick may not be the oldest voter in Northern Virginia, but he apparently is the longest continuously registered voter in Arlington. The apparent runner-up is 87-year-old Thomas L. Miller.
Kendrick first registered in 1907 and cast his first vote in 1908 at an old county store on Glebe Road. Miller, who grew up near Kendrick in Ballston, first registered in 1915.
Miller's first presidential election was the 1916 contest between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes. Like Kendrick, Miller went for a Democrat, Wilson, whom Miller recalls as "a right smart man."
Kendrick and Miller are among about three dozen Arlingtonians, out of 78,184 currently registered voters, who have been voting in the county for more than 60 years.
They remember Arlington before urban development, when small farms and villages dotted the landscape.
Miller says his father was the first motorman on the Rosslyn-to-Falls Church streetcar line. Kendrick's family came in 1902 to one of the small subdivisions that helped boost the county population from 6,430 in 1900 to 16,040 by 1920.
Miller, a former builder and semi-retired draftsman, describes local politics in the 1920s as more personal and informal than today. He recalls campaigning for friends, like county commissioner Harry Green and state senator Frank L. Ball, and meeting gubernatorial candidate Harry F. Byrd Sr. at a party at Green's house in 1925.
The small-town friendliness went so far, Miller said, that before he owned a car, "the sheriff would come up to my house to collect the poll tax, since it was hard for me to get down to the courthouse."
For other long-time voters, the service wasn't quite so good.
Dorothy C. Points, 82, was one of the few blacks in the Hall's Hill community of Arlington who registered to vote in the 1920s. Because her late husband "knew everyone," Points says, her family was involved in local Democratic politics and "had no particular problems" registering.
But even though Points says segregation in Arlington seemed to be "more civilized" than in the deeper South, she recalls that if a black person wanted to vote " you had to practically give your whole life history and answer a lot of unnecessary questions about history and the constitution."
Those years of segregation made a deep impression on Points, who says: "I haven't been out front in civil rights battles , but I've approved."
In 1920, Arlington added another group of citizens to its voter lists: women. And about two dozen of the women who registered that year are still voting in Arlington.
Many recall 1920 as the year "they first let us vote."
"They," however, did not include the gentlemen of the Virginia General Assembly, who rejected the 19th Amendment. The General Assembly finally got around to approving the amendment in 1952.
Of eight original women voters contacted last week, only one, Edna M. Croson, remembers her first trip to the polls.
"At first I didn't want to go," she said. "I just didn't feel comfortable. But all my friends were going, so I did, too."
Croson, now 92, has been voting "religiously" ever since.
Other long-timers also have been perennial voters, but not political activists. They vote diligently, read candidates' literature faithfully and make sure they get to the polls.
Yet when invited to describe those years, family histories, homes and jobs come to mind far more vividly than the long stream of public events.
L. Garland Kendrick is no exception. His anecdotes, reaching back over the better part of a century, are more precise and polished than most since he has kept detailed records and has been revising and retyping his memoirs over the past several years.
Politics is a small part of his story, and his sharpest political memories are of the two occasions when politicians "made me mad."
The first was in 1925, when Kendrick, then a civic association leader, got annoyed at what he describes as the "courthouse gang" and decided to challenge the incumbent state delegate in the Democratic primary.
"I was running against the fee system," Kendrick says. At the time, many county officials, such as the sheriff, were unsalaried and collected fees for each service provided.
"I carried every precinct but Clarendon, which was the biggest," he recalls, "but I lost by 28 votes. After that I decided I just didn't like the way politicians acted, so I got out of politics."
Nonetheless, Kendrick remained faithful to the Democrats until "they did something I'll never forgive them for."
That was during Harry F. Truman's administration, near the end of Kendrick's career as an examiner for the Federal Trade Commission. As Kendrick tells it, a political appointee in the commission tried to pressure him and other civil servants into buying $100 tickets to a Democratic Party dinner. Kendrick, who refused, was so outraged he vowed never to vote for a Democrat again.
"And except for local offices, I never have," he says.
Yet for all his distaste for politics, Kendrick is glad to show a visitor a page in his memoirs quoting the platform from his 1925 House of Delegates campaign.
Besides salaries instead of fees for county officials, he advocated "better schools with better equipment," better teachers and higher teachers' pay, "not just good roads but excellent roads," strict economy in government and strict enforcement of all laws except obsolete ones, which should be repealed.
"That still sounds pretty good," Kendrick says.