Vincent F. Callahan Jr., an influential Republican legislator who represented Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates for 40 years and was a leading proponent of the interests of Northern Virginia in the state capitol, died Sept. 20 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He was 82.
The cause was meningitis and paralysis caused by the West Nile virus, according to a statement released by his wife, Yvonne Weight Callahan.
Mr. Callahan’s long tenure in Richmond spanned two very different eras in the commonwealth’s political history. When he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1967, he was one of only 14 Republicans among the 100 delegates.
By the time he retired in 2008, the Republicans were in the majority in Richmond and Mr. Callahan had been chairman of the Appropriations Committee for almost a decade. He was the first Republican in modern history to lead the powerful committee.
After joining the Appropriations Committee in 1972, Mr. Callahan worked with members of both parties to steer funding toward Northern Virginia, helping promote the growth of George Mason University and the commercial development of the Dulles corridor.
“A lot of what you see in Northern Virginia today is there because of Vince,” J. Kenneth Klinge, a GOP lobbyist who had known Mr. Callahan since 1965, said Saturday in an interview. “I would call him a problem-solver. In order to solve problems, you have to work with people across the aisle.”
Except for an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1976, Mr. Callahan seemed content to spend his entire political career in the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly. He made the 224-mile round trip from his home in McLean to Richmond hundreds of times.
Leaders of both political parties, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. senators Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine (both former Democratic governors) and Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), praised Mr. Callahan’s legislative acumen.
When Mr. Callahan entered the House of Delegates, Northern Virginia was a fast-growing region that was woefully underrepresented in a legislature dominated by Democrats from rural parts of the commonwealth. Nonetheless, he was able to engineer funding to support the building of Metro lines in Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
Mr. Callahan was also instrumental in establishing the Dulles Toll Road and reserving its revenues for Northern Virginia.
“The stuff I have done over the years has been unsurpassed for any Northern Virginia legislator in history,” Mr. Callahan told The Washington Post in 2007, when he announced his retirement. “I probably delivered more to my region and to the state than anyone else. But you get to a point where you have done everything you set out to do and it is time to move on.”
By the time Mr. Callahan retired, his style of bipartisan pragmatism was already out of step with the increasing conservatism of his party.
“The Republicans are taking these far-right stances,” he told The Post, “and it’s doing them in.”
“He was one of the last Republicans in the House who was not part of this ideological warfare,” Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who spent more than 30 years in the legislature with Mr. Callahan, said Saturday. “He was very, very well liked.”
Vincent Francis Callahan Jr. was born Oct. 30, 1931, in Washington and was a graduate of St. John’s College High School. After serving in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, he graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1957.
He settled in McLean and entered the family newsletter business his father had started in the 1940s. He continued to run Callahan Publishing until 2000.
Mr. Callahan made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor as a Republican in 1965. When he decided not to seek re-election to the House of Delegates in 2007, after 40 years, he was the second-longest-serving member of the House of Delegates. He later moved to Alexandria.
His first wife, Dorothy Budge Callahan, died in 2005.
Survivors include his wife of eight years, Yvonne Weight Callahan of Alexandria; five children from his first marriage, Frank Callahan of Annapolis, Lauren Callahan of Norfolk, Anita Hyink of Falls Church, Va., Cynthia Toohey of Libertyville, Ill., and Bruce Callahan of Oakton, Va.; three stepchildren, Chris Weight of London, Eric Weight of Bellingham, Wash., and Elizabeth Weight of Colombo, Sri Lanka; a brother; 22 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Every year on Feb. 12, Mr. Callahan moved that the House adjourn in memory of Abraham Lincoln. When he first made the motion in 1968, it rankled some members of the Democratic leadership, including the House speaker, who was the son of a Confederate veteran.
“The speaker seemed taken aback by this unprecedented proposal in the bosom of the Confederacy, but he did not object,” Mr. Callahan wrote in an article about the General Assembly. “So began another tradition.”