Richard D. Obenshain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Richard D. Obenshain
Born Richard Dudley Obenshain
(1935-10-31)October 31, 1935
Abingdon, Virginia, U.S.
Died August 2, 1978(1978-08-02) (aged 42)
Chesterfield County, Virginia, U.S.
Cause of death Plane crash
Alma mater Bridgewater College (J.D.)
Occupation Attorney and politician
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Helen W. Obenshain (July 15, 1971–1978, his death)
Children Mark (b. 1962)
Anne Scott (born about 1966)[1]
Kate (b. 1969)

Richard Dudley "Dick" Obenshain (October 31, 1935 – August 2, 1978) was an American attorney and politician. Obenshain had served as the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, and was nominated in 1978 to run as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. However, he died in a plane crash prior to the election.


Obenshain was the son of Josephine (Dudley) and Samuel S. Obenshain (1904–2000), a professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he grew up. The elder Obenshain was active in Virginia's Republican Party during the era of the Byrd Organization, the Democratic machine of Harry F. Byrd which dominated Virginia's government from his election as Governor in 1925 until the 1966 Democratic primary when two powerful Byrd incumbents lost and Harry F. Byrd, Jr., barely won his father's seat.

Richard graduated from Bridgewater College in Rockingham County, Virginia and was admitted to the Virginia Bar. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1964, was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Attorney General in 1969 and became Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia in 1972.

As early in the 1930s, several Byrd Democrats began splitting their tickets for national elections due to the national party's growing friendliness toward liberal policies. Still, for a long time the Republican Party barely even existed at the state and local level in Virginia. However, under Obenshain's leadership, a record number of Republicans were elected to seats in the Virginia General Assembly, the first such major gains since Reconstruction in the late 19th century following the American Civil War.

In the summer of 1978, Obenshain won his party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring William L. Scott. On the night of August 2, the small twin-engine Piper PA-34 Seneca airplane carrying him home from a campaign appearance crashed in trees while attempting a night-time landing at the Chesterfield County Airport, a general aviation facility near Richmond. Killed along with the 42-year-old candidate were a pilot and a flight instructor.[2][3] Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy John Warner was selected to replace Richard Obenshain as the party's nominee for the U.S. Senate race. He won in November, and went on to hold the seat for 30 years.


In 2003, two of Richard Obenshain's children enjoyed major successes in Virginia politics. First, his daughter, Kate Obenshain of Winchester, became the first woman to head the Republican Party of Virginia. Ironically, her opponent was state Republican party treasurer Richard Neel, Jr., an Alexandria lawyer whose father was the pilot who died in the same crash as Richard Obenshain. Then, in November, Obenshain's son, Mark Obenshain, an attorney based in Harrisonburg, was elected to the Virginia State Senate from the 26th district. He was the 2013 Republican nominee for Attorney General of Virginia.


According to an article in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, his political legacy was "skill at birthing an alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats, his prescient support of Ronald Reagan and bold tax cuts, and his tireless crusade to curb Democratic dominance in the state." [4]

In Richmond, the state headquarters of the Republican Party of Virginia is named "The Richard D. Obenshain Center" in his honor.

"The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving personal freedom in the life of this country."
Richard D. Obenshain[5]

According to Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26), the above statement is slightly misquoted and should read as the following:

"The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country.”
Richard D. Obenshain


  1. ^ Atkinson, Frank B. (1 January 2006). The Dynamic Dominion: Realignment and the Rise of Two-party Competition in Virginia, 1945-1980. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 420. ISBN 9780742552098. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Ken Ringle (4 August 1978). "Crash Kills Obenshain". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Harden, Blaine (August 4, 1978). "Pilot of Obenshain Plane Called 'Very Cautious'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Edds, Margaret (14 September 2003). "A new generation of Obenshains storms Virginia GOP". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on 18 December 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "Remembering Richard Obenshain". The Virginia Conservative. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 

External links[edit]