South Boston - Halifax County: William M Tuck Airport - W78

Bill Tuck Didn't Lose Election in 50 Years

     William M. Tuck spent nearly a century of his life in politics... and never lost an election.

Last week "The Governor" violated one of the cardinal rules of politics by naming each of his opponents he faced during those years.

In 1923 three men ran for the two House of Delegates seats representing Halifax County. Samuel L. Adams of the Black Walnut District, John W Glass of Meadville and Tuck were the candidates; Glass and Tuck were the winners.

The same three men ran again in 1925. The same two emerged from the election as winners. Both times, Tuck led the ticket with the most votes.

In 1929 Tuck stayed out of the race. He had married the previous year and wanted to start his law practice at South Boston.

But in 1930, "The Governor" was back in the thick of it again, initiating a draft to "get people to select me to take Adams' place" in a special election.

He decided to move up a notch on the political ladder the following year, running for the State Senate against James S. Easley. He won, naturally, and did not face another opponent until he ran for lieutenant governor in 1941.

Several men were maneuvering for the chance to run for governor, and Tuck "thought (Colgate) Darden has the best chance of winning."

"He (Darden) was a Congressman then, and I thought he had the best chance," said Tuck. "I decided to run for lieutenant governor. We were elected."

Tuck today dismisses the old Virginia political axiom that Sen. Harry F Byrd Sr. "appointed" the Commonwealth's governors, subject to confirmation by the electorate.

"That just not so," he averted. "You had to work like hell."

When his term with Darden drew down to a close Tuck decided he would throw his hat in the circle and try for the state's number one spot.

"There were all folks running," he remembered. John Battle, Thomas B. Stanley and Dr. Francis P Gaines were, but a few, he said.

He defeated Democrat Moss Plunkett soundly in the primary election despite accusations from Richmond newspaperman Charles "Mike" Houston that he was conducting a "front porch campaign." He went on to defeat Republican Sen. S. Floyd Landreth by a margin of 2- 1 in the general election and wheeled into the Governor's mansion with ease.

After a colorful stay in the state capitol, Tuck was nominated in 1953 to succeed Thomas B. Stanley in Congress. There was some resentment among the state's Democrats at that time "cause I never endorsed (Adlai) Stevenson (for president), he said.

He went on to win one of the closest election battles he was ever in by a mere 4500 votes over Republican L. Campbell in the next Congressional Election.

He next defeated a young Jackson Kiser, a political newcomer from Galax, in 1956.

"I reckon he was a nice fellow," remarked the governor, "He gave a lot to the church."

In 1964 and 1966 he won some tough elections against Robert Gilliam. He retired from the Congress after the end of his '66 term.

Throughout his career in politics Tuck never had to resort to the tactics of the ousted officials in Kentucky who, as the yarn goes, left the capitol for his home riding a mule. He was reported as having ridden "mighty slow" in hopes that the new governor would offer him a job before he reached home.

"Big Bill Tuck" never had that problem,
June 10, 1983
The Gazette-Virginian