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Joel Broyhill
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1953 – December 31, 1974
Preceded by Joel West Flood
Succeeded by Joseph L. Fisher
Personal details
Born November 4, 1919
Hopewell, Virginia
Died September 24, 2006(2006-09-24) (aged 86)
Arlington, Virginia
Political party Republican

Joel Thomas Broyhill (November 4, 1919 – September 24, 2006) was an American politician and a Congressman from Virginia for 11 terms, from 1953 to 1974. He represented Virginia's 10th congressional district, consisting of white middle class suburbs of Arlington, and was known for his opposition to integration in the 1950s and 1960s.[1]

Early lifeEdit

At the age of eighteen, Broyhill moved to Arlington when his father relocated his building and real estate firm, M.T. Broyhill & Sons, in the area. He then attended George Washington University from 1939-1941. He enlisted in the United States Army in February 1942. He served in European Theater as a captain in the 106th Infantry Division. He narrowly escaped death when Allied planes bombed the Nazis, and the explosions harmed his hearing for life. Captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, he escaped six months later from a prisoner-of-war camp and rejoined advancing U.S. forces. He was released from active duty November 1, 1945. Among his military awards was a Bronze Star Medal.

After the war, he rejoined his family's real estate firm, where he became partner and general manager.


He was president of the Arlington County Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Arlington County Planning Commission. In 1950 he was elected president of the Arlington Republican Club.

Elected to CongressEdit

In 1952 he ran for Congress, and won on his 33rd birthday. Broyhill defeated Democrat Edmund D. Campbell by 322 votes, riding the coattails of the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Republican Party landslide that year. He won his next ten elections but lost during the Democratic landslide in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He was the first representative to Virginia's new Virginia's 10th congressional district|10th district, which had been carved out of the old Virginia's 8th congressional district|8th district, then represented by Howard W. "Judge" Smith, a legendary and powerful Democrat who controlled legislation through his chairmanship of the House Rules Committee. The Washington Post wrote[2]

Although of different political parties, Mr. Broyhill and Smith shared a conservative political ideology, and the veteran Rules Committee chairman took an avuncular interest in the new congressman, teaching him many tricks of the legislative trade. In this relationship, the two men reflected a trend that in years to come would be of singular significance in the politics of the South: the passing of the conservative mantle and the power that went with it from Old Guard Democrats to a new generation of Southern Republicans.

Congressional careerEdit

After taking office, Broyhill developed a reputation for constituent service that became legendary. A messenger came to his office every 30 minutes to pick up the Western Union telegrams his office would fire off to government agencies on behalf of constituents.[3]

The Washington Post wrote:[2]

As a lawmaker, Mr. Broyhill was best known for local matters. He sponsored legislation that led to the construction of the Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson bridges across the Potomac River and the second span of the 14th Street Bridge. He also sponsored a measure that led to the widening of Shirley Highway. He fought for better pay and working conditions for federal employees, federal aid to local school systems and financial support for Metro. He was an unrelenting and outspoken opponent of home rule for the District, arguing that the U.S. Constitution placed ultimate responsibility for the nation's capital with Congress, and he battled for years against measures to increase the authority of city residents to manage D.C. affairs. For these efforts he was bitterly criticized by D.C. leaders, who ascribed racial motives to his opposition to self-government for the majority-black city. But he won widespread support in Northern Virginia, where his stand was interpreted as a first line of defense against any attempt by the city to levy taxes on suburban commuters. He supported the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed D.C. residents to vote for president and vice president, and the 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote. He also backed aid to grandparents who cared for their grandchildren.

He served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, as well as the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. In 2000, Congress named the postal building at 8409 Lee Hwy. in Merrifield, Virginia after him. In his remarks on the legislation, Congressman Frank Wolf noted:[4]

According to the Almanac of American Politics in 1972, and I quote, they said, "There were few offices that took care of constituents' needs and complaints with more efficiency." Congressman Broyhill estimated that he aided more than 100,000 10th Congressional District residents in his 20-plus year service in office. The almanac also describes Congressman Broyhill as a Member of Congress and says that he "should be credited with voting his conscience."

On national issues, he supported the Republican legislative programs of Eisenhower and Nixon. In the Democratic administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, he opposed programs of the New Frontier and the Great Society.

Broyhill was a strident opponent of integration. In 1955, he was one 81 US Representatives who vowed to oppose by "every lawful means", the US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education which outlawed segregation. As a longtime member of the committee overseeing the District of Columbia he, along with three other members of Congress, recommended that schools in the District reinstitute segregation.[1]

In 1974 he announced his intention to retire, but was persuaded to seek another term at the request of Vice President Gerald R. Ford. He ended up losing to Democrat Joseph L. Fisher, as the GOP suffered landslide defeats in reaction to the Watergate scandal. His defeat was considered one of the biggest upsets nationally that year.[3]

After leaving office, he served as campaign manager for Senator John W. Warner's successful first run, but primarily he was involved with real estate. His firm developed several neighborhoods in Northern Virginia, including Broyhill McLean Estates, Broyhill Forest, and Sterling Park.


External linksEdit

New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 10th congressional district

January 3, 1953–December 31, 1974
Succeeded by
Joseph L. Fisher

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