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Virginia D. Smith
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Nebraska's 3rd district
January 3, 1975 - January 3, 1991
June 30, 1911
|Died||January 23, 2006 (aged 94)|
Sun City West, Arizona
Virginia Dodd Smith (June 30, 1911 – January 23, 2006) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1991 from the Third Congressional District of Nebraska. She was the first woman from Nebraska to hold a seat in the House.
She was born in Randolph in Fremont County in the southwestern tip of Iowa, to Clifton Clark Dodd and the former Erville Reeves. On August 27, 1931, she married Haven N. Smith (May 28, 1909 - May 12, 1997). The Smiths died in Sun City, Arizona, where they had resided after 1991. There were no children from the marriage. They are buried in Iowa.
Virginia Smith graduated from the University of Nebraska in the capital city of Lincoln in 1936. For most of her adult life, she and Haven lived in Chappell, in Deuel County, in the Nebraska Panhandle and worked as an advocate on rural and agricultural issues. She was a member of the Business and Professional Women's Club and served as national president from 1951 to 1954 of the American Country Life Association.
She was a Republican National Convention delegate at each party conclave from 1956 to 1972. Smith was elected to succeed Representative Dave Martin in 1974. In the year of Watergate, she defeated her Democratic opponent Wayne Ziebarth by just 737 votes. However, she never faced another contest anywhere near that close, and was reelected seven more times from what has long been one of the most Republican districts in the nation. Proving just how Republican this district was, her lowest vote share apart from her initial bid was 69 percent in 1986, and she even ran unopposed in 1982.
A young Karl Rove, later famous as an advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, worked on the Smith campaign that year in one of his first election assignments. In 1984, Mrs. Smith was named "Independent Woman of the Year."
In Congress, Smith worked to guard funding for rural projects affecting her district and was a vocal opponent of legislative pay increases. She actively sought emergency federal aid for Grand Island after a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the city in 1980. In 1987, she led a drive to roll back a $12,100 pay raise and refused to accept the money when her efforts failed.
Smith was a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where she was regarded as a swing vote on many Reagan administration priorities. Hers was the critical vote in favor of funding the controversial MX missile in 1982, but she opposed the president's request for funding the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in 1985.
National Republicans encouraged Smith to run against U.S. Senator J. James Exon in 1984, but, at seventy-three, she passed on the race and instead ran for re-election. She opted against seeking reelection in 1990 and was succeeded by Republican Bill Barrett.
The Virginia Smith Converter Station (near Sidney in Cheyenne County) and the Virginia Smith Dam on the Calamus River (near Burwell in Garfield County) are named for her. Her congressional papers are archived at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.