Dwayne Yancey
Author of
"When Hell Froze Over"  1988.

Dwayne Yancey [dwayney@roanoke.com]  is a Virginia journalist. Presently assistant managing editor of The Roanoke Times, he has more than 20 years experience as an editor and reporter. His coverage of Virginia politics led to the 1988 book, "When Hell Froze Over," which detailed the rise of Doug Wilder, who went on to become the first black elected governor in the country. In 1989, he was part of the team of reporters who covered the Pittston coal miners' strike, which was a finalist for that year's Pulitzer Prize. In his spare time, Dwayne is an amateur playwright, and some of his work has been produced on stage. Dwayne grew up on a  farm near McGaheysville, Va. in Rockingham County, and graduated from James Madison University. He now lives in Fincastle, Va. with his wife, Katerina, and children, Rain and Keith. Dwayne is descended through Lewis Davis Yancey,  John Yancey, Layton Yancey, William Burbridge Yancey, William Benjamin "Captain Billy" Yancey, Thomas Layton Yancey, Whitfield Mauzy Yancey, and Benjamin Tyre Yancey.

 

The Book is now out of print, but copies can be ordered through the author.  It's the story of Doug Wilder, who in 1985 became the first black elected to a statewide office in Virginia and who in 1989 became the first black elected governor anywhere in the country. This excerpt is from Chapter 3, "Beneath the Portrait of Harry Byrd," which describes Wilder announcing for lieutenant governor beneath the portrait of the politician who orchestrated Virginia's "massive resistance" to integration in the 1950s.

Reviews:

"A richness of detail that few other political books contain." -- The Washington Times

"A remarkable book. Takes readers behind the scenes with vivid detail." -- Choice Magazine

"A perceptive and brilliant writer." -- West Coast Review of Books

"Yancey somehow was able to get on the record what is generally reserved for cocktail party whispers. This book gives a unqiuely candid view of the inner workings of the most mysterious campaign in modern Virginia history." -- Virginia Review

"It has history, drama, suspense. A modern epic of Southern politics that can grip politics-junkies and general reader alike."  -- Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

 

CHAPTER 3

July 3, 1984

In his dark, windowless office just off the empty Senate floor, Jay Shropshire was beaming. The Senate clerk was like a little boy at the circus, scarcely able to wait for the show to begin. Doug Wilder was more fretful. He fussed over his son's tie, making sure it was straight. He made two trips to the men's room to make sure his own tie was straight. His two daughters waited patiently, and quietly, while the men fidgeted with their neckwear. Shropshire, eagerly looking for ways to help, ducked out to check on whether the TV crews had setup their cameras yet. He came back into his office with his grin even broader than before. "All wired and ready," he announced.

Wilder looked around the room. Shropshire looked back at him. So did his children, as if everyone expected him to say something special before they went out to face the bright lights of history.  "Well, here we go," he said. Here we go indeed.

* * *

The Old Senate Chamber, where the Confederate Congress once met, was crowded. The capital press corps was out in full force. Though no special effort was made to get them there, politically curiosity-seekers ringed the back of the room. Wilder took his place before the lectern bristling with microphones. The official portrait of Harry Byrd Sr. looked over his shoulder. A photographer for the Richmond newspapers maneuvered along the front row to frame the pair for the afternoon News Leader and the morning  Times-Dispatch. Shropshire saw that and smiled even more. Using this room was his idea. Wilder introduced his children and proudly went over their  educational backgrounds in painstaking detail. Loren was not just a student at the University of Virginia, she was a third-year student at the McIntyre School of Business at the University of Virginia. Larry was not just going to law school at U.Va. this fall, he would be attending the School of Law there. Lynn was not simply an architect, she was one for the U.S. Patent Office in Washington.

Standing there beneath the portrait of Harry Byrd, unashamedly pointing out how his children had gone to all the "right" schools, grandly referring to U.Va. as "the university," Wilder sounded just like a thoroughbred Virginia gentleman, wrapping himself in the twin virtues of pride and tradition. The irony was so obvious many would miss it for more than a year. All they could see that day was Harry Byrd, his golden silence, even in oil, tested by what was going on beneath him.

Doug Wilder had come to announce what the papers had been speculating for the past two days he would, but few could yet believe: He would seek his party's nomination for lieutenant governor in 1985.

It was almost a year before party would choose its nominees, almost a year and a half before the election itself. It was even three full weeks before the national party met in San Francisco to nominate Walter Mondale for president. In the sweltering Southern capital this third of July, a Tuesday, state politics should have been on vacation. But Doug Wilder's thoughts were on more distant pursuits.

Once, in a fit of senatorial pique, he had dismissed the lieutenant governorship as a "vacuous" position, its duties of presiding over the Senate so trivial that they would not tax the abilities of a mere page boy. Now he elevated its importance. "It is a high calling and the opportunity is great," Wilder said. Just as important, it "affords an  opportunity in my particular instance to see just how far the horizon is stretching."

The reporters and politicians crowded into the room didn't now quite what to make of it all. Surely he couldn't be serious about this. Why did you choose to announce your candidacy beneath the portrait of Harry Byrd? the reporters asked. Wilder flashed a big smile. "I've been in this room on any number of occasions and the picture and I get along very well." The reporters couldn't help but chuckle.

Reporters asked how his campaign was different from Jesse Jackon's. "His was to strike the conscience of America," Wilder said. "I'm running to be elected." Why do you think you'll be able to get whites to vote for you? Wilder cited white candidates who had been elected in predominantly black districts. "All I'm saying with my candidacy is turnabout is fair play."

Are you concerned that your campaign might become bogged down on race? "No," Wilder said sternly, "because you and I won't permit that to happen."

Next question?

Race again.

"I don't have to spend a great deal of time telling you that I'm black," Wilder said, pulling on his cheeks. "If you'd have said 'I love you' to a frog, he'd turn into a fairy prince, but there's nothing that can change the color of my skin, so there's no need for me to dwell on that. I intend to discuss the issues."

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