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The Darden College of Education unveiled Aug. 26 a 4-foot-by-5-foot painting of the late Colgate W. Darden Jr., governor of Virginia from 1942-46, which was given to the college by an anonymous donor. It will hang in Room 118 of the Education Building. The Darden College of Education was named for him in 1968.

The portrait was painted by Charles Sibley, a local artist who founded Old Dominion's art department more than three decades ago. Sibley has painted two renderings of Darden - the other hangs in the Southhampton County Courthouse.

Guy Friddell, a columnist with The Virginian-Pilot, who as a reporter covered Gov. Darden provided insight on Darden's life to the education faculty at the unveiling.

"Gov. Darden was multifaceted," Friddell said. "He followed his convictions and people respected him. He was a scholar and an avid reader."

Darden, who earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, served in the General Assembly's House of Delegates before serving three terms in the U.S. Congress. After his time in the House of Representatives, Darden returned to Virginia and ran for governor.

"There has never been anybody as popular as he was in the governor's office," Friddell recalled. "People trusted him and thought he was fair. The people knew he'd do what was right."

While in the governor's office, Darden helped to change higher education by helping to establish public colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia at Clinch Valley. He also helped to democratize the college campus, by building student unions for all students, not just fraternities designed for the elite, according to Friddell. He was often called the "Education Governor."

When some Virginia schools closed in 1934 because there was no money left to keep operating, Darden, who was serving in the General Assembly, wanted to withdraw $5 million from the highway fund to keep the schools open. Friddell quoted Darden as once saying: "Public schools are the greatest tool that democracy has to prepare itself."

"He wanted to improve the lives of people of Virginia, with a primary focus on education," Friddell said. "It was a race between education and annihilation, and for that I'm eternally grateful to him."

This article was posted on: August 27, 1999

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