By Henry Lane Hull
Before the arrival in the 1940s of the late Ruth B. Gravatt, known to all as Dimple, politically the Northern Neck was largely a one-party region. Dimple changed that situation, working tirelessly with the late Carl Croasdale and Bill Humphreys, to foster the Republican Party, the three of them determined by their vision that the electorate should have a choice at the polls.
If Dimple was the Foundress of the Republican Party in the Northern Neck, for the last three decades its Guiding Light has been Carol Dawson. On a cold winter evening in 1991, I found myself seated next to Carol and across from her husband, Frank Smith, at a dinner at the Embassy of Mauritania in Washington. To make conversation, I asked where they lived and she replied that they were in the process of moving to “a small town in Virginia that you have never heard of.”
Undeterred, I pressed on, asking its name. She replied, “Morattico.” I told her that indeed I was quite familiar with Morattico and upon further discussion I was also able to tell her that I was knowledgeable about their house. At the time, I learned that Frank was a retired U.S. Navy captain and Carol was serving on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, having been appointed by President Reagan in 1984 and continued in office by President George H. W. Bush and later in to the early months of the Clinton Administration.
Carol is a native of Indianapolis, having moved to the Washington area when her father, a journalist, was assigned to cover the D.C. political scene, perhaps the genesis of her lifelong interest in politics. She is extremely politically astute, following both races and policy at all levels from local to national to global. She has come to know innumerable figures from both parties and is versed in all aspects of the on-going gamesmanship of politics. She has been a delegate to many national and state conventions, and has been a representative on the party’s State Central Committee.
Locally, Carol served for many years as chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Committee, during which time she founded the annual Reagan Day Dinner held each winter to commemorate the 40th president and to gather fellow Republicans from all across the Commonwealth to meet, greet and learn what is happening at every level. The event has become one of Virginia’s signature political happenings.
At Morattico, Carol and Frank have returned their venerable Victorian home on its rise overlooking the waters of the Rappahannock River and Morattico Creek into a classic example of the architecture of its period. It is a showpiece of the village and a significant component justifying the Morattico Historic District’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
Shortly after Carol and Frank arrived in the Northern Neck, the Commonwealth purchased the land to become Belle Isle State Park. They have been enthusiastic supporters of the park and pleased that its lands are at public use.
Carol was particularly instrumental in bringing about the bridle trail at the park. Both she and Frank are horse lovers and Carol has had a faithful steed, Max, for years. They both have become immersed in Lancaster County happenings across many levels, as I noted in an item written about Frank nearly five years ago.
Tomorrow, Carol joins Frank in becoming an octogenarian. In describing her activities and interests, I have saved the most important for last. Carol is a person of deep spiritual faith which has imbued her entire life, her relationship with Frank and her children and grandchildren, her role as a citizen, officeholder, activist and proponent of the causes to which she is committed. She is a model Christian and an example for others in all facets of her life.
Happy Birthday Carol! You are at the Peak of Youth. Ad multos annos!