Occasion lauds late legislator, raises funds for Arlington Historic Society | Folks

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An online meetup on Jan. 13 not only celebrated the life (and early death) of an Arlington legislature, but urged that his legacy be browned by supporting efforts to modernize the Arlington Historical Museum.

The forum celebrated the life of Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (1944-90) and His Efforts to Pass the 1985 Virginians with Disabilities Act.

That move formed the basis for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act five years later, and was designed not only to protect but also to change the public’s attitudes towards people with disabilities.

Stambaugh “was an inspiring legislature who persevered with determination, dedication and ingenuity,” said Karen Darner, who reached Stambaugh’s seat in the legislature after his death from a heart attack.

Stambaugh had represented Arlington in the House of Delegates for 16 years, and his death “was a terrible loss to both Arlington and the Commonwealth,” said Darner.

Stambaugh consistently (and vocally) offered “a strong commitment to advancing the needs of those who can least stand up for themselves,” said the former Del. James Almand, who served with him in Richmond and later became a Circuit Court judge.

The Virginians with Disabilities Act, introduced in 1984 at the behest of the Robb administration, included a range of safeguards in the areas of employment, housing, education, voting, transportation and access to public housing. The aim was to enable all Virgins to “fully participate in the social and economic life of the Commonwealth,” Almand said.

(Today, the measure offers protection to nearly one in eight Virgins, nearly a million people in all – many of whom may not even know the impact they are having on their lives.)

The measure was introduced in the 1984 legislative session and sailed through the House of Representatives (96-1) but was stopped by a combination of business interests and Conservative members of the Senate. However, a year later it passed and was legally signed by Governor Charles Robb.

Rosemary Ciotti, a citizen and disability attorney, said the measure made Virginia – which is not often viewed as a leader on such matters – the avant-garde of helping people with disabilities.

And the best way to celebrate your legacy is to inspire others.

“The work continues to build on Warren’s vision and the highly competitive legislative win,” she said.

The Warren G. Stambaugh Memorial Foundation sponsored the fundraising evening in partnership with the Arlington Historical Society. The funds were used to support an architectural study of the 1891 Hume School (the Arlington Historical Museum). The focus will be on finding ways to expand the museum without violating its historical origins and improving accessibility.

In the early 1960s, the Arlington School Board assigned the building to the Historical Society. After seven decades as a school and six more as a museum, the accumulated wear and tear is evident.

“An 1891 building needs maintenance,” conceded Society President Cathy Bonneville Hix. “Our goal is to ensure we have a world-class museum that can be appreciated and enjoyed by all Arlington residents and visitors.”

(There is a direct link between Stambaugh and the Hume School. In the 1980s, the delegate was able to receive a modest grant from the state government to aid in its maintenance.)

The red-brick building, overlooking Pentagon City from a square on Arlington Ridge Road, is integrated into its own historic district that puts some limits on exterior renovations or additions. There are ways, however, to bring the facility up to 21st century standards, said Patrick Hope, a state delegate and member of the historic society’s board of directors.

“Our goal is to create a world-class museum, a source of pride for every Arlingtonian” – something that is currently “sorely lacking” in the county – said Hope.

Hope said the effort would require buy-in from the general public, government agencies, corporate groups, and local and state governments. And he said efforts should not be unnecessarily delayed given the current health and economic situation.

“If we don’t start now, then when?” Asked Hope.

Major sponsors of the January 13th event included Altria Client Services, Dominion Energy and Prudential Financial.

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