Va. lawmakers mourn death of Putney, state’s longest serving legislator

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s longest serving legislator will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Richmond, House Speaker Bill Howell’s office announced.

Former Del. Lacey Putney died Saturday. The lawmaker from Bedford County was 89, Howell said.

Howell, a Stafford County Republican, fondly referred to Putney as “the consummate Virginia gentleman.”

He credited Putney, who helmed the powerful House Appropriations Committee for years, with steering funding for higher education, creating the Virginia Retirement System and establishing a joint commission that performs legislative audits and reviews that today helps lawmakers measure the effectiveness of existing state laws and to craft new legislation.

“He didn’t want to borrow a lot of money, he wanted to run the type of budget that was sensible and at the same time not extragent,” Howell said.

Putney served 52 years in the House, working with 13 governors, before he retired in 2013. He was first elected as a Democrat but would leave the party in the late 1960s as the party’s politics evolved during the height of the Civil Rights era. He went on to serve in the House of Delegates as an independent for the bulk of his political career, caucusing with Republicans.

A statement from Senate Democratic leaders called him a “giant of a figure” and a “fair and compassionate legislator.”

“For more than half a century, Lacey served in the House of Delegates with diligence and independence. He always had an open door and warmly welcomed new legislators, including both of us, to the chamber. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time,” a statement from House Democrats David Toscano and Charniele Herring said.

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