Roanoke, VA

Home to WDBJ (CBS) and WSLS (NBC), as well as the Roanoke World News newspaper, the city of Roanoke was the media and financial center of western Virginia in the 1950s and 60s. The city, and its surrounding county, stood apart from its neighbors to the southeast, such as Pittsylvania and Prince Edward, because its African American population in 1950 was 15.9 percent and the county's was 8.5 percent. Roanoke city was the third largest city in Virginia with over 91,000 residents, about half the number living in both Richmond and Norfolk. The Norfolk and Western Railway put its headquarters in Roanoke, as well as major repair, operational, and production facilities. As one of the most prosperous railroads in the nation, the N & W spurred industrial growth in the city. The surrounding county's farms were mostly owner-managed and operated and produced dairy products, fruits (apples and peaches), and beef cattle. This diverse urban setting proved fertile ground for the rise of the Republican Party in Virginia. Ted Dalton, Linwood Holton, and other Republican leaders stepped forward in the fifties and sixties to run for statewide office. They charted a course toward two-party competition in the state, building on the party's footholds in the western regions.