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Former SW Va. Congressman William Wampler Sr. dies

Thursday - 5/24/2012, 5:25pm  ET

AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - William C. Wampler Sr., a moderate Republican who represented southwestern Virginia in Congress in a career that spanned four decades, has died. He was 86.

Wampler died Wednesday night at his home in Bristol, Va., said his son, former state Sen. William C. Wampler Jr.

Wampler's tenure in Congress began with his election in 1952, when he served a single term through 1954. He represented the 9th District in the mountainous western tip of Virginia, a district known as the "Fightin' 9th." He ran unsuccessfully to regain his seat in 1956.

When he was first elected, Wampler was only 26 years old and Republicans had been virtually shut out of Virginia politics by the Democratic Party machine that dominated the state for much of the 20th century.

He was again elected to the House in 1966 and remained there until he lost in 1982 to Democrat Ric Boucher. Boucher held the seat until 2010, when Republican H. Morgan Griffith upset him.

He remained in Washington working for several years as a lobbyist after leaving Congress for the last time 30 years ago, his son said. He later returned to Bristol.

The elder Wampler served in the Navy in World War II and was a 1948 graduate of Virginia Tech. Before politics, he had worked at the family's Bristol furniture store. He also worked in the early 1950s at newspapers in Bristol, Tenn., and Big Stone Gap, Va., writing sports stories and editorials, according to a biographical directory of Congress.

During his 12-year hiatus from Congress, Wampler worked for the Atomic Energy Commission for two years and managed the family's furniture and carpet businesses.

The Wampler GOP political legacy resumed in 1988 when his son won a seat in the Virginia Senate. The younger Wampler served for 24 terms in Richmond before retiring last year. He now serves as the executive director of the New College Institute in Martinsville.

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