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Richard Harding Poff (born October 19, 1923, in Radford, Virginiamarker) was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1952, representing Virginia's Sixth District. A moderate Republican and a licensed attorney, he was later given strong consideration for the United States Supreme Courtmarker by President Richard Nixon.


Military service

During the Second World War, served as a bomber pilot with the Eighth Air Force in England; flew thirty-five successful missions over Europe; awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross; was inactivated from the service as a first lieutenant serving from February 1943 to August 1945.

Legislative career

Poff, who was first elected to Congress in 1952, had his share of controversy during his decades in the House of Representatives. He was one of only two Republicans, along with the rest of Virginia's entire Congressional delegation, and nearly all members from Southern states, to sign the Southern Manifesto protesting the Supreme Court's mandate in Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate public schools. A. Linwood Holton, former Governor of Virginia (1970-1974), and the commonwealth's first post-Reconstruction Republican Governor, suggests that Poff probably could not have been reelected unless he signed the manifesto.Despite that controversial decision, he was well liked by most, including many African Americans, who in an ABC News report on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court described him as having a great interest in individuals; only one person in that report described him as a racist despite his having signed the Southern Manifesto. Consistent with his signing of the Manifesto, he also opposed all civil rights measures in the 1960s with the exception of the 24th Amendment; however, it is worth noting that in the 1970s he favored desegregation aid and voted for the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1971. He was the only member of the House Republican leadership who did not support President Eisenhower's proposal to increase the minimum wage and widen its coverage. According to John Dean, he was also the author of most of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States while serving on the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nomination to Supreme Court of the United States

Before President Richard Nixon could formally nominate him for the U.S. Supreme Court, Poff withdrew (before nomination reached the Senate). John Dean wrote that Poff actually made that decision based on concerns that he would thus be forced to reveal to his then-12-year-old son Thomas that he had been adopted. Poff's concern was that the child would be negatively affected by that kind of information if revealed before he was old enough to understand.
Nevertheless, according to the New York Times, within weeks after he withdrew from consideration that sensitive personal information was revealed in Jack Anderson's column, and he was forced to inform the child of his adoption anyway.
 By then, however, it was too late for reconsideration, and eventually Lewis Powell was confirmed to the Supreme Court in Poff's place.


Poff is also well known as one of the men who, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsored the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO. Poff had an interesting take on RICO, which has since been ignored by the Supreme Court. Poff stated in the Congressional Record that the Act should be used only against organizations, and not individuals.

Supreme Court of Virginia

Richard H. Poff went on to become Justice and then a Senior Justice of the Virginia Supreme Courtmarker, where he served until his retirement.


External sources

Official Congressional Biography

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