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

Gov. & Mrs. William M. Tuck

They were the "first couple" of South Boston and Halifax County, and no publication of this kind would be complete unless they were a part of it. Bill and Eva Tuck, Governor and First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1946 to 1950, are forever a part of our history.

William Munford Tuck was born September 28, 1896, at "Buckshoal," in the High Hill section of Halifax County, the next to youngest of nine children of Robert James and Virginia Fitts Tuck. His mother died when he was 13, and he was raised by his father, who had been in the House of Delegates and who exerted great influence over him.

He was educated in county schools, at Virgilina High School, Chatham Training School (now Hargrave Military Academy) and William & Mary Academy. He left the College of William & Mary after two years, and following a year as principal-teacher in a Northumberland County school, he served in the U.S. Marines in World War 1. He entered the law school of Washington & Lee University in September, 1919.

Graduating in June, 192 1, Mr. Tuck returned to Halifax County and entered the legal profession with John Martin. In 1923, at age 27, he entered the political arena by running for a seat in the House of Delegates. He led the ticket in a three-way race.

Thus began a career of elective public service that span over 40 years. He served two terms in the House, did not run in 1927, but when his successor died in office in 1930, he was drafted to fill out the remainder of his term.

In 1931 Mr. Tuck, then a well-known figure, ran for the State Senate and won easily. A Democrat, he became an ally of former Governor and then U.S. Sen. Harry Flood Byrd Sr., and rose to become chairman of the Democratic Caucus, the Senate's most powerful position.

In the Senate, he sponsored measures to enact new child labor laws, to provide for unemployment compensation, old age assistance and jail reforms. He worked to repeal Prohibition and was largely responsible for the development of the state park system.

Mr. Tuck was nominated for Lieutenant Governor in 1941 on the ticket headed by Colgate Darden. They won handily. Because he traveled extensively around the state representing Gov. Darden during World War 11, Mr. Tuck's popularity increased.

He ran for Governor in 1945, easily winning the primary and defeating his Republican challenger by a better than 2 to 1 margin. His four-year term, 1946-1950, was marked by labor problems, including threatened strikes by Vepco, communications, transportation and coal workers. All came to naught.

As a result, Gov. Tuck put through the General Assembly bills to outlaw strikes by public employees and "closed shops" in Virginia industries. The "Right to Work Law" became the first of many in the nation.

Gov. Tuck also sought and got laws to improve the school system, roads, reform mental hospitals, public health, and a reorganization of state government.

Following his term as Governor, the Tucks returned to private life in South Boston, but it was of brief duration. In 1953 he was elected to represent the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served through 1968. Again he returned to South Boston and his law office.

Mr. Tuck was married in 1928 to Mrs. Eva Ellis Lovelace Dillard, a South Boston native, daughter of Charles .T and Betty Hodges Lovelace and widow of Lester Layne Dillard. She was a graduate of Longwood College and had taught school prior to her first marriage.

It was Mrs. Tuck's ill health that determined Mr. Tuck's retirement from Congress. By 1968 she was increasingly confined to their home. She died in 1975.

Mr. Tuck made his last major public appearance on September 20, 1975, at "Bill Tuck Day," hosted by the Southfax Sertoma Club and attended by several thousands of his friends, admirers and political allies, among them Gov. Mills Godwin, Lt. Gov. John Dalton, and former Govs Darden, Albertis Harrison and J. Lindsay Almond.

The "Washington Post," not known as a paper friendly to Mr. Tuck, described the event as "an unprecedented and unashamedly emotional tribute to one of the eldest of Virginia's elder statesmen."

Mr. Tuck suffered a stroke about a year later, and he never fully recovered from its effects. On June 9, 1983, the Governor died at the age of 86. He was buried beside his, beloved wife in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

South Boston, Virginia
Historical Sketches, 1884-1984
Published by the South Boston Steering Committee