LOOKING BACK: Councill elected

Published 8:45 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

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Fifty years ago, on Nov. 6, 1973, James Paul Councill, Jr., a Democrat from Hunterdale, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, 44th District seat – to succeed Samuel Eliba (“Sam”) Pope who was retiring after serving in the House of Delegates since 1946.

Councill, a highly successful farmer and businessman, defeated three other candidates for the seat: Russell E. Darden, Independent candidate from Courtland; Mary Hancock, Independent candidate from Courtland; and Calvin P. Allmond, who was a write-in candidate from Isle of Wight. 

Councill told The Tidewater News reporters after his election that the write-in effort that got Allmond 767 votes in Isle of Wight might have caused him to lose votes there. “I feel I would probably have gotten most of those votes that went for Allmond,” he said, noting that Darden only edged him by 479 votes in Isle of Wight. “I am disappointed at not carrying Isle of Wight,” Councill said. “I plan to get around over there quite a bit between now and January when the legislature takes in. I just didn’t have the time to get over there before the election.”

“However, I am very pleased with my victories in Franklin and Southampton,” he said. He admitted his position in favor of retaining the state sales tax on food and non-prescription drugs may have influenced some voters. “It may have hurt me some; but I’d take the same position again because we need the sales tax in its present form until there is a better alternative,” Councill said.

When asked about the most key factor in his victory, Councill replied, “I think my background and experience in government was my strong point with voters.” He served on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors, representing the Franklin District, for several terms.

Darden, a Union-Camp employee, came in second. He carried Isle of Wight County. Overall, he trailed Councill by 759 votes. “Really, I’m most appreciative for the support I received; I’m disappointed not to have won, but we ran a good race,” he said. “Me, my wife, Pam, and Bill Barrett from Carrville, my campaign manager, did a lot of the leg work. We didn’t have a lot of money or a big organization working for us, just friendly people who wanted to help.”

The key to the election¸ Darden feels was Franklin where Council out-polled him by a two to one margin. “That really hurt,” he admits.

Hancock, who was the third-place finisher, said she was disappointed but not discouraged. “I don’t feel all that bad about losing,” she said. “I intended to enjoy the campaign and I did. I think my efforts brought a breath of fresh air into the race and opened up much needed discussion on a number of issues. I certainly don’t plan to give up politics.”

Allmond came in fourth but provided a major surprise by polling 1,182 write-in votes in the contest. He had sought to have his name placed on the regular ballot but was disqualified due to a technical error. The movement on behalf of Allmond was not made public until Election Day. 

(NOTE:  Paul Councill served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 32 years, retiring in 2005. He passed away on March 25, 2007.) 

Also, on Nov. 6, 1974, former Democratic Governor Mills E. Godwin, of Chuckatuck, was again elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia but this time as a Republican, defeating Independent candidate Henry Howell of Norfolk. Godwin carried Franklin and Southampton by very narrow margins and Howell carried Isle of Wight by a margin of approximately four hundred votes. 

The races for lieutenant governor and attorney general were runaway victories for Republican John Dalton and incumbent Democrat Andrew Miller.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.