VIRGINIA – People across Virginia are saying goodbye this week to the longest serving legislator in state history. Lacey Putney died Saturday at the age of 89. For 52 years, Putney served the 19th District, which includes parts of Bedford, Botetourt, Roanoke, and Franklin counties, as well as parts of the New River Valley.
For some in the Virginia Legislature, he was their inspiration to go into politics. For others, like U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Putney was a mentor and a friend for more than two decades.
"He was the first person I voted for in the Virginia House of Delegates," Goodlatte said.
Goodlatte says he would not likely be where he is today without Putney's help.
"Great mentor to a lot of other folks, including me when I first got elected to Congress. He was a legislator's legislator. When you needed to get things done in Richmond, you went to Lacey Putney. He knew how to get them done," Goodlatte said.
Others in the Legislature watched Putney as an inspiration, like Delegate Sam Rasoul, who grew up in Putney's district.
"When I was growing up as a child, you always heard of the legend of Lacey Putney ... when I was elected delegate, Putney was retiring, and you certainly appreciated the gravity of his presence in the House. When you walk into the House of Delegates, you see a large portrait of Delegate Putney," Rasoul said.
Several other legislators offered their heartfelt condolences to Putney's family Saturday, including state Sen. Steve Newman, who wrote "Virginia, you lost your best man today, a model for every generation to come."
Goodlatte says that's because of the tremendous impact Putney had while in office.
"You don't have to look any further than the Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School and Research Institute. That probably would not have happened without the work of Lacey Putney," Goodlatte said.
In addition, Putney served for more than 40 years on the House Appropriations Committee.
Putney will also be given the rare honor of lying in state in the Capitol building in Richmond. His funeral plans have not yet been announced.