Mills E. Godwin, Jr. “Navigating”

As we recently reported, Delegate Rich Anderson (R-51) on March 16, 2016, asserted that Mills E. Godwin, Jr., deserved to be honored with the name of a school because he “navigated a very dark period in American history.”  Godwin was an acknowledged leader in Virginia’s “Massive Resistance” movement to the Supreme Court and Federal Government’s outlawing of segregation in schools.  So Godwin’s current supporters have made vague references to Godwin’s later “change of heart” on the subject to justify a school being named for him at the conclusion of his first term as governor in 1970.  Despite the absence during his long life of any apology for his leadership role in a movement condemned in much of the country at the time, despite his horrible published statements on the subject of segregation, despite his published rationalizations and support for it as late 1969 as he finished his first term as governor (just a year before a local school was named for him), Godwin supporters continue to make vague references to his “change of heart” and “redemption” while offering no convincing evidence.  From most of what we have seen online they cite a Wikipedia entry, which reads in relevant part, “[h]owever, after 1960, he [Godwin] was among those leaders who became much more moderate as Virginia made the cultural transition, and distanced itself from the extreme positions of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr..”

Well, thanks to the work of an enterprising individual who shall remain nameless for the moment, we have actual video of Mills E. Godwin, Jr., from after 1960.  From June 19, 1961, in fact, when Godwin was in the midst of an ultimately successful campaign for Lt. Governor of Virginia, a position he held from 1962 to 1966.  This shows Godwin, well after his prominent leadership role in the Massive Resistance movement of the 1950s.  Two years, in fact, after the period ending in 1959 in which Godwin and his comrades had shut down some public schools in Virginia rather than let black children attend them.  This is Godwin “navigating” history as Delegate Anderson would say and becoming “much more moderate.”  We think it speaks for itself.

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10 comments on “Mills E. Godwin, Jr. “Navigating”

  1. -

    Sadly, Trenum’s latest stunt continues to distract the school board about the important issues. What happened to the discussion about the 30 minute extension? What happened to that juvenile survey implemented by the Office of Propaganda?

    I only wish the nativists and closet racists would focus more on the school budget and the declining test scores, rather than defend a man who clearly was a racist.

  2. -

    Godwin was an avowed segregationist until he passed away. I think Willie and his segregationist crowd (I understand it totals 12) that are drawn to continuing the racial divide after so much progress has been made are objecting because it’s part of the unofficial Republican platform, the GOP is the party of old white men who think exactly as Mills Godwin thought in 1960 and Willie is the new leader of passive massive resistance.

  3. -

    Delegate Rich Anderson always tries to play both sides, he is unprincipled in every respect, I’m unsure why he is engaging in this issue, well, sure I am, someone posted he should be wearing the dunce cap when in Richmond, actually he should be wearing it permanently.

  4. -

    I think it’s ironic that Rich Anderson would make this “arc” of life argument in support of the racist Godwin when him and his wife Ruth both got elected by smearing their opponents as unfit for office based on false accusations from years before. In Paul Nichols’ case from several years before and in Earnie Porta’s case from 20 years before. Yet they defend Godwin who was still publicly supporting segregation on the record a year before the school was named for him. How dishonest and hypocritical can the Anderson’s be.

  5. -

    @ Anonymous
    “I think it’s ironic…”

    I don’t know how many times I can say this. You’re giving Rich Anderson too much credit. He doesn’t understand that he’s being dishonest and hypocritical. He’s just not that bright. Really! HE’S NOT THAT BRIGHT. It’s like trying to hold a kid responsible for something when the kid doesn’t know any better.

  6. -

    Obviously that is what the majority of voters in Virginia wanted. The man was elected.

    You are missing this rather important fact.

    I didn’t like what was done to Earnie Porta or to Paul Nichols. It was dead wrong and I would never support Rich Anderson because of it and other reasons.

    However, I don’t support digging up the past from over 55 years ago either. People change. The ignorance of not understanding where mainstream Virginia was is getting on my last nerve. How do you orchestrate change at all if you can’t get elected.

    The school carried that name for 45 years. Why wait 45 years to strip down the name? Mills Godwin’s past history was not buried in a cave. Anyone who knew who he was knew of where he fit in.

    Making such a big deal 45 years later is purely political and let’s just say, playing to the base. It’s opportunistic and wrong and hurting the Godwin Community–for very selfish reasons.

  7. -

    You should do a story on where the support for retaining the Godwin name is coming from. It’s coming overwhelmingly from outside the Neabsco district and in particular from the Coles, Gainesville and Brentsville Districts where the African-American population in most places is 5% or less. Don’t tell me this has nothing to do with race. These are overwhelmingly white people in the middle and western part of the county trying to force the name of a racist segregationist on minority communities in the eastern part of the county.

  8. -

    @ Harvey
    We want to give you credit for being one of the more responsible commentators who oppose the Godwin name change. We respectfully disagree with you primarily because of our views about how ardent a leader of segregation Godwin was and because we don’t put quite the importance you do on keeping a school’s name the same over an entire life, particularly a middle school.

  9. -

    PW Muckraker,

    He was ardent before he wasn’t. If we use your line of reasoning, no Virginian before say 1959 should ever be considered for any acknowledgement because they were segregationists.

    At what point do we accept that people change and times have changed?

    What assurances do I have that we are just going to vaporize Godwin? None.

    I see some things I don’t like in the making. I think you know what they are.

  10. -

    @ Harvey
    You appear to misunderstand and miss the point.

    It’s not being “ardent” that separates Godwin from other segregationists. It was that he was a leader in the Massive Resistance movement not some random participant, never apologized for it, and as late as a year before the school was named for him was still rationalizing segregation. Segregationists who have done great things later in life may still be worthy of acknowledgment. Godwin’s accomplishments involved the first state sales tax and bond issue, which were instrumental in building roads and community colleges. We’re fine with a road being named after Godwin, but naming a school after him, that if he got his way black children could never have attended, is offensive.

    The historical record also shows that “Massive Resistance” was not an inevitable outcome in Virginia. Virginia was actually more receptive to integration than most southern states and initially reacted calmly to the federal decisions. It was Southside Democrats like Godwin who saw stirring up racial resentment as a way to breathe new life into a faltering Democratic Harry S. Byrd organization and who led the charge that created and implemented Massive Resistance. That’s what sets Godwin apart when it comes to schools and segregation.

    People and times do change. That’s exactly why people should not be forced to continue to honor a man like Godwin with a school name just because it was named for him back in 1970.

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