Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Grand Dame' of Kentucky GOP, rural woman who was close to George H.W. Bush, dies in accident

Velma Childers, once called the "grand dame" of Kentucky's Republican Party, died Wednesday following a car accident in her hometown of Pikeville. She was 79. Childers, who served on the Republican National Committee for Kentucky and on the Kentucky Republican Party’s executive committee for 23 years, was a close friend of former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara.

"She was a very outstanding lady," Pike County Coroner Russell Roberts told Deborah Yetter of the The Courier-Journal in Louisville. "We’ve lost a good citizen of Pike County." Roberts said police told him Childers was driving southbound on U.S. 23 when a car pulled in front of her. (Read more)

"Velma Childers was a special person and our dear friend, and I am sure thousands of others will say likewise," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He got to know Childers when he was The C-J's political writer and she was ousted from the state party committee in 1991 for supporting the successful candidacy of Democrat Brereton Jones, a former West Virginia Republican, for governor of Kentucky. She remained close to the Bush family and attended the elder former president's birthday parachute jumps.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Chuch of Pikeville. Visitation will be at the J.W. Call Funeral Home Chapel after 6 p.m. Friday. For a story by Dori Hjalmarson, Pikeville bureau reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, click here. (Photo from Herald-Leader)

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