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Former GOP leader Watkins dies at 66
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
State and local Republicans are remembering Tucker Watkins as a dedicated party leader who was a friend to all, regardless of a person’s party affiliation.
Watkins, 66, of Randolph in Charlotte County, died Saturday after a lengthy illness. He had been active in the GOP for at least 20 years, most recently as Southside field director for former governor and U.S. senator George Allen, who is running for the Senate again in the Nov. 6 election.
In a statement posted on his website, Allen described Watkins as “a truly special friend” and “a dedicated, patriotic leader.”
“He worked diligently to help all constituents and help attract more investment and jobs to Southside,” Allen wrote.
Watkins also was past chairman of the 5th District Republican Party and had campaigned for former 5th District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, who is running for president on the Constitution Party ticket.
Goode, who has held political office as a Republican, Democrat and independent, could not be reached for comment Monday.
“I don’t know anyone who knew the 5th District better than he did,” 5th District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, said of Watkins. He said Watkins was “a dear, dear friend” who he had known all of his life.
Henry County Republican Party Chairman W.C. Fowlkes described Watkins as “a true Southern gentleman.”
“He was very nice and hospitable to everyone,” regardless of a person’s party affiliation, said Fowlkes, who estimated he had known Watkins for at least 10 to 12 years. “He never met a stranger. He was a great friend to everybody who knew him.”
Watkins, who attended the Virginia Military Institute, was an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
“Whether you agreed with his politics or not,” Hurt said, a person would have to agree that “he loved his country.”
Fowlkes said he got to know Watkins well after serving in the military in Iraq. He said Watkins had a close nephew who was killed in Iraq while serving as a lieutenant colonel in the military, and they had talked about Watkins’ loss.
His nephew’s death “took a little bit of the spark out of his life,” Fowlkes recalled.
Watkins was the son of the late Dr. William Randolph Watkins and the late Ruth Porter Watkins. Fowlkes said the family traced its history to the early years of Virginia.
Involvement in Republican politics was “a way of life” for the family, so “it was like it was bred into him,” Fowlkes said.
“As he saw more and more changes in society,” he saw a need to promote traditional values for which the GOP stands, Fowlkes added, explaining why Watkins remained involved in the party for many years.
“He was driven to politics for all the right reasons,” such as a desire to preserve the country for future generations, Hurt said.
Watkins “left this country better than he found it,” he said.
Martinsville Republican Party Chairman Jeff Williams said he did not know Watkins personally but knew of his reputation.
“I respect anyone who spends a lifetime” promoting their political principles, no matter whether that person is a Republican or Democrat, Williams said.
Watkins is survived by a sister and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church in South Boston. Burial with military honors will be in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Powell Funeral Home in South Boston is in charge of arrangements.