Virginia D. Smith
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2013)|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nebraska's 3rd district
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1991
|Preceded by||David Martin|
|Succeeded by||Bill Barrett|
|Born||June 30, 1911
|Died||January 23, 2006
Sun City West, Arizona
|Spouse(s)||Haven N. Smith|
Virginia Dodd Smith (June 30, 1911 – January 23, 2006) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1991 from the Third Congressional District of Nebraska. She was the first, and to date only woman to represent Nebraska in the United States House of Representatives.
She was born in Randolph in Fremont County in the southwestern tip of Iowa, to Clifton Clark Dodd and the former Erville Reeves. On August 27, 1931, she married Haven N. Smith (May 28, 1909 – May 12, 1997). The Smiths died in Sun City, Arizona, where they had resided after 1991. There were no children from the marriage. They are buried in Iowa.
Virginia Smith graduated from the University of Nebraska in the capital city of Lincoln in 1936. For most of her adult life, she and Haven lived in Chappell, in Deuel County, in the Nebraska Panhandle and worked as an advocate on rural and agricultural issues. She was a member of the Business and Professional Women's Club and served as national president from 1951 to 1954 of the American Country Life Association.
She was a Republican National Convention delegate at each party conclave from 1956 to 1972. Smith was elected to succeed Representative Dave Martin in 1974. In the year of Watergate, she defeated her Democratic opponent by just 737 votes, but she was easily re-elected in subsequent elections. A young Karl Rove, later famous as an advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, worked on the Smith campaign that year in one of his first election assignments. In 1984, Mrs. Smith was named "Independent Woman of the Year."
In Congress, Smith worked to guard funding for rural projects affecting her district and was a vocal opponent of legislative pay increases. She actively sought emergency federal aid for Grand Island after a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the city in 1980. In 1987, she led a drive to roll back a $12,100 pay raise and refused to accept the money when her efforts failed.
Smith was a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where she was regarded as a swing vote on many Reagan administration priorities. Hers was the critical vote in favor of funding the controversial MX missile in 1982, but she opposed the president's request for funding the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in 1985.
National Republicans encouraged Smith to run against U.S. Senator J. James Exon in 1984, but, at seventy-three, she passed on the race and instead ran for re-election. She opted against seeking reelection in 1990 and was succeeded by Republican Bill Barrett.
The Virginia Smith Converter Station (near Sidney in Cheyenne County) and the Virginia Smith Dam on the Calamus River (near Burwell in Garfield County) are named for her. Her congressional papers are archived at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She was a Methodist.
Smith was asked when she came to Congress about her philosophy of life. "As a 15-year-old high school valedictorian [in 1927], I wrote these words in my valedictory message. 'There is no excellence without great labor.' Almost half a century later, I continue to live by this philosophy."
- Dan Balz. "Indiana Democrat Wins House Panel's Support." 04/24/1985. Washington Post. p. A4.
- Judith Havemann. "2 in GOP Try to Block Pay Raise for Congress." Washington Post. 01/07/1987. p. A14.
- George C. Wilson. "Funding for MX Surives on Tied Committee Vote." Washington Post. 12/03/1982. p. A1.
- Entry in the Biographical Dictionary of Congress
- U.S. House of Representatives. Office of the Clerk. Election Statistics.
- Who's Who in America, 1984–1985