Colgate Darden

Colgate Whitehead Darden, Jr., served in the House of Delegates from 1930 to 1933 representing Norfolk, then as a Congressman from 1933 to 1937 when he lost a race for reelection. He ran again in 1938 and was elected back to Congress, resigning in 1941 to run for Governor. Darden was elected Governor in 1941 and served from 1942 to 1946. He became the President of the University of Virginia in 1947 and served until 1959. Darden grew up in Southampton County, Virginia, attended public schools there, and was graduated from the University of Virginia. He served in the French Army and in the United States Marine Corps in World War I. Darden was closely allied with the Byrd Organization Democrats in the 1930s and 1940s. As Governor he stressed war preparation and broader funding for education. Darden pushed for opening voter registration during the war to all servicemen and women, but he did not seek to remove the poll tax. From his post as president of the University of Virginia, Darden charted a course of tolerance and careful compliance with school desegregation. In June 1954, just after the Brown decision was announced, Darden called for a biracial commission to study how Virginia should proceed. In 1956 Darden issued a statement on the "massive resistance" laws just passed by the Special Session of the legislature. As an advocate of the Gray Commission plan, Darden was convinced that "the people of Virginia [desired] separate school systems for the two races" but he feared that the massive resistance laws would endanger the public school system. Darden favored localized approaches to desegregation, believing that Southside schools could not be integrated in his lifetime while in other counties integration might proceed smoothly. Darden's basic agreement with the Gray Commission plan meant that he would not move very far toward school desegregation, yet he never advocated defiance of federal court orders or "massive resistance." Instead, Darden worked quietly to protect the public school systems local initiative during the school closing crisis. In addition, Darden was among the state's Democratic Party and business leaders who argued that school closings in 1958-9 were disastrous for the state's future.