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Tucker Watkins, GOP activist, dies at 66

South Boston News / October 06, 2012
Tucker C. Watkins IV, former chairman of the Fifth District Republican Party and a party stalwart who worked on the campaigns of George Allen and Virgil Goode, died Saturday morning after battling cancer. He was 66.

Watkins had been hospitalized at Halifax Regional Hospital after his condition had deteriorated in recent days. A family member confirmed his passing around 10 a.m. Saturday.

He remained politically active until the end, voting absentee on Wednesday for the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney for president, George Allen for U.S. Senate and Robert Hurt for Fifth District representative.

“Three good men,” he posted on his Facebook wall.

John Thrift, III, a nephew living in Washington, D.C., offered a statement on behalf of the family: “Tucker was passionate about life — politics, family, friends and had a great love for his country. He truly was a Virginia gentleman. We’ll miss him terribly.”

A resident of the Clover area, Watkins gained renown for his activism with the Republican Party, which led to his appointment by then-Senator George Allen to serve as Southside field director following Allen’s election to the Senate in 2000. After Allen lost his seat, Watkins went on to become campaign manager for Virgil Goode when the Rocky Mount congressman faced a challenge from Democratic candidate Tom Perriello. Goode lost that race in 2008.

Allen issued a statement Saturday night hailing Watkins as a “dedicated, patriotic leader for Southside Virginia,” “a truly special friend” and “a loyal, creative leader who was always looking to welcome new people into our Party.” Seeing Watkins at a town hall meeting in Halifax County last month, Allen said the opportunity “allowed all of us to cheer for him and express our gratitude for his positive influence in our lives.

“Susan and I will remember Tucker with grateful and fond memories, and we will keep his friends and family in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.

Watkins was a long-time Fifth District chairman and worked alongside elected officials in the region including State Senators Frank Ruff of Clarksville and Bill Stanley of Franklin. He also attended several national political conventions, including the 2004 convention to promote George Bush’s re-election campaign, at which he was interviewed on national TV wearing a “Purple Heart Bandaid” mocking Democratic nominee John Kerry.

An Army veteran who fought in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, Watkins was active in veterans’ causes. He is also a past member of the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

Republican Del. James Edmunds of Halifax praised Watkins as “certainly one of Halifax County’s finest citizens” who “did more, I believe to advance the Republican Party in this area and around the state than anyone, but he did it respectfully.

“He sincerely believed in his heart that he was bettering Virginia and the country,” said Edmunds.

Memorial services for Watkins will be held Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in South Boston. Burial will follow in the Oak Ridge Cemetery with military rites. The family will receive friends Monday, Oct. 8 from 6-9 p.m. at Watkins’ home, Black Walnut Farm, 2091 Black Walnut Road in Clover.

His obituary reads as follows:

Mr. Tucker Carrington Watkins, IV of Randolph died Saturday, October 6, 2012 at Halifax Regional Hospital. He was born in Halifax County on September 30, 1946 and was 66 at the time of his death. He was the son of the late Dr. William Randolph Watkins and the late Ruth Porter Watkins.

Mr. Watkins was a member of First Presbyterian Church. He attended Virginia Military Institute and served honorably in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He was very active in the Richmond Jaycees for many years, past Chair of the Fifth District Republican Party and Senator George Allen’s field director for Southside Virginia.

Mr. Watkins is survived by his sister, Ruth Porter Watkins of South Boston, nieces and nephews, Melissa Watkins of Goldsboro, NC, Mary Garrett and Bob Itin of Philadelphia, PA, Mary Tucker and Scott Irby of South Boston, John E. Moore, Jr. of Springfield, MO, Crimora and David Carter of Greenville, SC, Dr. Porter Moore of Nashville, Edward Barksdale Watkins of Richmond, and John Payne Thrift, III of Washington, DC and eight great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, William, R. Watkins, Jr. his sister, Louise Watkins Moore and his nephew, Lt. Col. William R. Watkins, III.

A memorial service for Mr. Watkins will be held Tuesday, October 9 at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Dr. Russell Lee officiating. Burial will follow in the Oak Ridge Cemetery with military rites.

The family will receive friends Monday, October 8 from 6 until 9 p.m. at Black Walnut Farm, 2091 Black Walnut Road, Clover. Online condolences may be directed to http://www.powellfuneralscom. Arrangements are by Powell Funeral Home, 1603 Wilborn Ave., South Boston, VA 24592.

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...I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Tucker Watkins, who touched my life deeply, as well as the lives of many others, along the brightest trails, he left behind. I suspect that his early departure from this world, will aid him in serving the higher spiritual realms, so that he may oversee November's Presidential Election, to the best of his ability! Tucker was a great Patriot, who worked diligently, on behalf of his Country, as well as his many beloved friends and family, all of us Blessed, to have known him. I will cherish the memory of Tucker's warm smile, the sparks which emitted from his gaze, his unique sense of humor, and his most welcome, and comforting embrace. With love, always. Sincerely, Carol Williams-Butler...+++

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