THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, February 12, 1995 TAG: 9502100184 SECTION: SUFFOLK SUN PAGE: 28 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY FRANK ROBERTS, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: SUFFOLK LENGTH: Medium: 79 lines
FORMER GOV. Mills E. Godwin Jr. and Gov. Mills E. Godwin High School seniors recently recalled yesterday.
They visited the Mills E. Godwin Jr. Permanent Exhibit at Riddick's Folly, the governor explaining the public-life and private-life photographs and memorabilia, the students enthralled.
The tour was not a quick, clock-checking walk-through.
The Richmond students seemed fascinated by everything they saw and heard, agreeing with the assessment of their principal, John McGinty: ``You're spending your time with living history.''
There was a lot to see in the exhibit. But for these students, there was more to take in - the wisdom of a two-term governor, a man who served Virginia from 1948 to 1978, except for four years between governorships.
``Politics has its trials and tribulations, but it has its rewards. I'd like to live long enough to see one of you as governor,'' said Godwin.
His first gubernatorial term, as a Democrat, ran from 1966 to 1970. His second term, as a Republican, went from 1974 to 1978.
``I served in the House from 1948 to 1952 and in the state Senate from 1952 to 1962. I was elected lieutenant governor from 1962 to 1966,'' he said. ``Originally, I had no idea I'd be elected to any office.
``It could happen to anyone as easily as it happened to me,'' he said, then, nodding toward the girls added, ``there are a number of lady governors in the nation now.
``But whatever you want to do,'' Godwin said, ``do it well.''
It was not loose advice to a group of half-interested youngsters. The Godwin High students are top-of-the-line, advanced placement government students from a school where, McGinty said, ``more than 90 per cent of the graduates go on to college.''
One of those students, each year, goes to college with the help of a $2,000 scholarship award, the recipient of the faculty-chosen Gov. Mills E. Godwin Award, a fund set up by some of the governor's friends.
Another honor, given to another graduating student, is the Becky Godwin Memorial Award, named in honor of the governor's daughter, killed in a lightning accident when she was 14 years old.
The plaque is given to an outstanding senior selected by her classmates.
The tie-in between Godwin and the school named in his honor is not just a matter of words.
``The governor takes an active interest in us. He often speaks at the school and attends some of the athletic events,'' McGinty said. ``He's always very warmly received by the students.''
The school, built in 1980, has a student body of about 1,700.
The first group of Godwin High seniors visiting Riddick's Folly came to Suffolk Nov. 11.
Nine days later, the governor received a couple of video tapes.
``One film showed the high school band,'' he said. ``The other showed a group of dancers from the school, out on the field, spelling out my last name.''
They were warm greetings for Godwin's 80th birthday.
``My family and I have watched it several times,'' he said.
More students are expected to visit the Riddick's Folly exhibit later. Godwin will be ready for them - speaking softly, explaining clearly.
For the most part he let the students look for themselves, several times discussing items of particular interest to them.
Sometimes Godwin would point at something and tell his young friends, ``This is self-explanatory.''
By the time he finished explaining, by the time the seniors finished listening and looking, about two hours had passed.
The seniors also toured Riddick's Folly, courtesy of Susan Vasoti Ward, its director.
Finally, each student had the opportunity to pose for a picture with the governor. Then, a return to Governor Mills E. Godwin High School. ILLUSTRATION: Staff photo by JOHN H. SHEALLY II
Former Gov. Godwin shows, left to right, Kendra Snead, Gene Fishel,
Emily Sydnor and Jennifer Harvie around Riddick's Folly.