Virginia Shehee

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Virginia Ruth Kilpatrick Shehee
Virginia K. Shehee of LA.jpg
Louisiana State Senator from District 38 (Caddo and DeSoto parishes)
In office
1976–1980
Preceded by Cecil K. Carter, Jr.
Succeeded by Richard G. Neeson
Personal details
Born Virginia Ruth Kilpatrick
(1923-07-12)July 12, 1923
Houston, Texas, USA
Died July 6, 2015(2015-07-06) (aged 91)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Resting place Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport
Political party Democratic Party / later Republican
Spouse(s)

(1) John Andrew Guy (divorced)

(2) William Peyton Shehee, Jr. (died 2004)
Children

From first marriage:
Ann Shane Shehee
Andrew Michael Shehee
Nell Elizabeth Shehee Kramer
From second marriage:

Margaret Scott Shehee Cole
Residence Shreveport
Caddo Parish
Louisiana
Alma mater

Alexander Elementary School (Shreveport)
C.E. Byrd High School
Stephens College (one year)
Centenary College of Louisiana

Southern Methodist University
Occupation Insurance and funeral home businesswoman
Religion Episcopalian

Virginia Ruth Kilpatrick Shehee (July 12, 1923 – July 6, 2015) was a businesswoman, civic leader, and patron of the arts in Shreveport, Louisiana, who served from 1976 to 1980 as the state senator for District 38 in Caddo and DeSoto parishes.[1][2] Shehee won her seat in the 1975 general election by twenty-three votes over incumbent fellow Democrat, the late Cecil K. Carter, Jr.[3][4] She was defeated in 1979 by another Democrat, Richard G. Neeson, who retained the seat until 1992.

Sheehee was the first woman elected to the Louisiana Senate without succeeding a husband. In May 1936, Doris Lindsey Holland Rhodes of Greensburg in St. Helena Parish in southeastern Louisiana, was appointed to the state Senate upon the death of her husband, Thomas Myers Holland. Thereafter, Doris Holland then won a special election for the seat.[5][6]

In 2015, Shehee was listed prior to her death by the Louisiana secretary of state's office in Baton Rouge as a registered Republican voter.[7]

There was not a sharp edge in her personality. ... She was so convincing ... There was not a deceptive bone in her body. – former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of his friend, Virginia Shehee

Business success[edit]

Kilpatrick Life Insurance Co. building on Marshall Street in Shreveport

Shehee was born in Houston, a descendant of the Old Three Hundred families who settled Texas in 1824 with Stephen F. Austin, she moved to Shreveport during the Great Depression with her parents, the former Nellie Mae Peters (1901-1971) and Lonnie Benjamin Kilpatrick (1892-1956). Upon her mother's death in an airplane crash, Shehee became president and CEO of Kilpatrick Life Insurance Company and the family-owned Rose-Neath Funeral Homes, founded in 1936 by her father, a personal friend of Governor Jimmie Davis, who often visited in the Kirkpatrick home and took a special interest in Virginia. In later years, Shehee was heavily involved in the Davis birthday celebrations, which culminated with the last one in 2000, when the former two-term governor turned 101.[5] As a state senator, Davis lobbied Shehee to make his trademark "You Are My Sunshine" the official state song.[8]

Under Shehee's leadership, Kilpatrick Life Insurance Company increased in size to ten offices in Louisiana and Texas. Rose-Neath has twelve funeral homes and three Louisiana cemeteries.[8]

Shehee was for a time a partner with the pediatricians, Dr. Thomas E. Strain, Sr., and his son, Jimmy Strain, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1968 to 1972, in the development of the Fountain Towers on Fairfield Avenue in Shreveport.[9]

Shehee was the chair emeritus of the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, which was renamed in her honor in 1996.[10] She was a member of the American Council of Life Insurance and chair of the Louisiana Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Association.[11]

"First Woman" designations[edit]

  • Shreveport Community Council "Special Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Service"
  • Clyde E. Fant Memorial Award for Community Service
  • Designated "Mr. Shreveport" by the Optimist Club; often called "The First Lady of Shreveport"
  • "Business Leader of the Year" by Shreveport Chamber of Commerce[12]
  • Louisiana's first elected female state senator, who did not follow a husband. Shehee served during the second administration of Governor Edwin Washington Edwards. She served on the higher education transition teams of Governors Buddy Roemer and Mike Foster.[12] In 2007, she was named vice chair of Governor Bobby Jindal's ethics team.

Service and philanthropy[edit]

Shehee served on the Louisiana Committee of 100 (for economic development), Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal, and the Louisiana Board of Regents Foundation. She graduated from C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport and attended for one year Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Her father begged her to return to Shreveport,[8] where she finished her bachelor's degree at the United Methodist-affiliated Centenary College, of which she has served as a trustee. Many of her family members graduated from Centenary as well.[12] She subsequently studied for the Master of Social Work at Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas. She is a former chairman of the orchestra board of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and worked with other community figures, such as journalist Jim Montgomery of The Shreveport Times,[8] to restore the historic Strand Theatre. She was active in other downtown renewal projects as well.[12] Shehee was a member of Beta Iota Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and supported the collegiate chapter, as well as the national organizatioin. She was a loyal and active Centenary alumnae. She was also a member of the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors and a booster of LSU sports.[8]

Family[edit]

Shehee Stadium at Centenary College in Shreveport is named for William Peyton Shehee, Jr.

After World War II, Shehee went to Germany during the time of the Berlin Airlift to visit friends and began working for the American Red Cross. She married John Andrew Guy, and the couple moved to Washington, D. C. After their divorce, she returned to Shreveport with their three children, Ann Shane Shehee, Andrew Michael Shehee, and Nell Elizabeth Sheehee, since Nell Kramer, wife of Graham Kramer, to resume work in the family businesses as a funeral director and insurance agent. She later married William Peyton Shehee, Jr., who died in 2004. The couple had a daughter, Margaret Scott Shehee Cole, wife of David Cole.[8]

Shehee's younger sister, Ann Kilpatrick Peters (1937–2011), was co-owner and a director of both Kilpatrick Life Insurance Company and Rose-Neath Funeral Homes. Ann also had a professional career as a mezzo-soprano in New York City, having appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, and the New York City Opera. On her return to Shreveport, she was like her sister a devotee of the arts.[14]

Shehee's self-published autobiography, Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee: First Lady of Shreveport, was released in 2010 through Sarah Hudson-Pierce's Ritz Publications.[15]

Death and legacy[edit]

Shehee died in Shreveport of a lengthy illness just six days before her 92nd birthday. Services were held on July 10 at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Shreveport, where she was an active member. Interment is at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport.

Mayor Ollie Tyler of Shreveport issued this statement upon Shehee's death:

The City of Shreveport has lost a servant leader with the death of Mrs. Shehee. She was a true friend and supporter who not only touched my life, but the lives of so many in this city and state. She had a strong vision of what Shreveport could become and she was not afraid to get knee-deep in the trenches to make this city a better place for everyone. I will miss her generous heart and ability to connect people from all walks of life. My prayers are with her family and all those who were touched by her life.”[16]

Former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., said of Shehee: "Everybody wanted to be with her. She was charismatic. She was warm. She had everything people looked for in a leader, but there was not a sharp edge in her personality. ... She was so convincing, so self-effacing. There was not a deceptive bone in her body."[17]t

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shehee, Virginia Kilpatrick. "United States Public Records, 1970-2009". familysearch. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  2. ^ John Andrew Prime. "Civic leader Virginia Shehee dies at 91". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame". lapoliticalmuseum.com. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2008" (PDF). legis.state.la.us. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "James Ronald Skains, Political Hall of Fame induction in Winnfield will honor eight, January 2004". The Piney Woods. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ In 1940, Doris Lindsey Holland Rhodes switched to the Louisiana House of Representatives and remained in that position in St. Helena Parish until 1948.
  7. ^ The Louisiana Secretary of State website at https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/Home/Home?uid=598521 carries listings only of living voters.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Virginia Ruth Kilpatrick Shehee". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Dr. Thomas Everett Strain, Sr.". findagrave.com. Retrieved June 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana". biomed.org. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee". people.forbes.com. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee". sos.louisiana.gov. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  13. ^ ""Louisiana Center for Women and Government" – Past Inductees". Nicholls.edu. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Obituary of Ann Kilpatrick Peters". The Shreveport Times. December 5, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  15. ^ Sarah Hudson-Pierce, Ritz Publications of Shreveport: Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee: First Lady of Shreveport, 2010, 200p., ISBN 1-886032-10-6
  16. ^ "Shreveport Philanthropist Virginia Shehee Remembered". KEEL (AM). Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Virginia Shehee, ex-state senator from Shreveport, dies". Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Cecil K. Carter, Jr.
Louisiana State Senator from District 38 (Caddo and DeSoto parishes)

Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee
1976–1980

Succeeded by
Richard G. Neeson