NORFOLK -- State Sen. Peter K. Babalas, the only Virginia legislator censured for violating the Senate's conflict of interest rules, was buried yesterday after being eulogized as a man of his word who fought for the needs of his constituents.
Babalas, who died Tuesday at age 65 after a nine-year bout with bone marrow cancer, was remembered by Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, outgoing state Sen. William F. Parkerson Jr. of Henrico County, and the Rev. Constantine Dombalis of Richmond at a funeral at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
Wilder said Babalas was a man of his word and credited him with a leading role in the passage of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday bill. Parkerson called Babalas a scrappy fighter who watched out for his constituents.
"I will cherish -- as will so many, many other Virginians -- the memory of Peter K.," said Parkerson. "We are all honored and the better for having known him."
Wilder, recalling conversations he had with Babalas, said that when the late senator spoke of how long he had to live and what he would do with his life, "It was always inspirational to me because it was saying, 'Life is for the living, and live it.' "
Wilder paused and added, "He did."
After the traditional Greek funeral, officiated over by seven priests, Babalas was buried a short distance from the church at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The funeral was attended by a number of state senators and delegates and Tidewater area officials, including Norfolk Sen. Stanley Walker and Norfolk Sen.-elect Yvonne Miller, who is replacing Babalas. Babalas chose not to seek reelection last year, citing reasons of health.
A son of Greek immigrants, Babalas was born in Boston and was graduated from Harvard University in 1945 and the University of Virginia Law School in 1950. He went on to become a millionaire lawyer. He served in World War II and the Korean War.
He was accused of violating two sections of the 1983 state conflict-of-interest law when he cast a committee vote and a proxy to kill a bill that would have capped interest rates charged by second-mortgage companies.
At the time, Babalas represented Landbank Equity Corp., one of the largest second-mortgage companies on the East Coast until it went bankrupt in August 1985. Landbank paid him more than $61,000 between April 1984 and August 1985.
In August 1986, he was acquitted of conflict charges, but two months later his colleagues on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee urged that he be censured for his conduct and stripped of his chairmanship of the Rules Committee.
The full Senate voted the censure -- a written reprimand -- last January. Several days earlier, Babalas had apologized to the Senate, acknowledging that his vote may have been a mistake.