by Audrey Thomasson
IRVINGTON—Celebrate the nation’s birthday July 4 through Irvington’s signature event—the annual hometown parade on Independence Day.
Claim a spot on the parade route along King Carter Drive Tuesday morning. At 10 a.m. nearly 100 entries will parade eastbound from Crockett’s Landing to Irvington Road.
This year, the town celebrates the patriotism of retired U.S. Army Colonel and long-time Irvington resident Robert “Bob” Morrison as parade grand marshal. Morrison served for over 35 years on the town’s planning commission.
“In the early 1980s, someone called me to edit the comprehensive plan,” Morrison said of his introduction to the commission. “In those days, it was only a couple of pages long.”
Morrison is a 1950 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned a master’s in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech and used that degree to teach engineering to West Point cadets.
His combat service includes joining the “Wolfhounds” of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division in the Korean War. He also served as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam in the late 1960s before joining the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1969.
He retired as a colonel after 30 years of service, receiving awards that include the Silver Star, the Soldier’s Medal, two Legions of Merit, seven Air Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, and the Commendation Medal.
In 1980, Morrison and his wife, Martha, moved to Irvington where he started a career as a commercial contractor, overseeing builds from Tappahannock to Gloucester, including Oakwood Fitness Center, now the Northern Neck Family YMCA Wiley Child Development Center in Kilmarnock.
When the state mandated the development of town comprehensive plans, Morrison’s military experience made him a good choice for maneuvering local resistance to increasing governmental regulations.
He traded patriot duty for civic service. He recalled one of the changes that had a major impact on area development was the introduction of engineered septic systems.
“It opened the door to people building houses on land that didn’t perk. It opened the door for businesses as well,” said Morrison.
But probably the most influential change on the town was the influx of new residents. With new people came new ideas and direction.
“New people wanted other things” than those who had lived in Irvington for generations, he said. “Thanks to the Village Improvement Association we have a lot of directed and concentrated interest in the direction of the town.”
Morrison says the greatest achievement of the planning commission was being a bridge between the old ways and the new.
In the past, things got done “behind the scenes,” he said. He feels the commission’s greatest accomplishment during his tenure was writing new ordinances that helped move the town into the 21st century “…while preserving the water-based economy, environment and way of life.”