Pat Shares His Early History
My folks built
their home in what had been an apple orchard. Early memories
of gorgeous views of nearby mountains and the fragrance of apple
blossoms in the Spring, and a profusion of apples in the Fall.
Lexington, a lovely town with distinguished past -- our heroes
were Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, who had been President
of Washington College, later named Washington & Lee, and
Stonewall Jackson, who had been an instructor at Virginia Military
Institute prior to the Civil War. I was born in a hospital made
from Jackson's home. We lived one block from Jackson Avenue. My folks are buried in the Jackson Memorial Cemetery.
in Public Service
My father entered public life before I was born, serving as
Commonwealth Attorney for Rockbridge County, then as a state
senator, then Commissioner of Game and Inland Fisheries for
the State of Virginia. He was an avid athlete -- played college
football, held the state hammer throw record, was a top tennis
player, and later an ardent hunter and fisherman. He was named
"Sportsman of the Year" by Field & Stream Magazine.
All my life our family had a profusion of wonderful hunting
dogs, which, in part, accounts for my love of animals.
When I was
two, my father was elected to the United States House of Representatives
where he served for 14 years. In the House, he was a member
of the powerful Ways and Means Committee where he was a principle
author of the "pay as you go" taxation plan which still yields
a harvest of payroll deductions for the Federal government each
In 1946 he
was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the aging Carter Glass,
and there he served for 20 years, becoming one of the handful
of senior conservative southern Democrats who controlled much
of the business of the United States Senate.
From my father I
learned an incredible work ethic, frugality, integrity and
the true meaning of what it means to be a public servant. My
father lived humbly and frugally. He never forgot that he was
a servant of the people and that his private and public life
must be above reproach.
Both my mother
and my father instilled in me the responsibility that we had
to our family tradition. Mother, whose name was Gladys Churchill
Willis, and was a distant cousin of my father, Willis Robertson,
told us of our British ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke
of Marlborough (ancestor of Winston Churchill) and our collateral
ancestors, the Harrisons, who produced a signer of the Declaration
of Independence and two United States presidents. I learned
of the Willis family which had founded Fredericksburg, Virginia,
and particularly of my father's grandfather, the famed "King
Ab" Willis of Orange County, Virginia. I learned of my direct
ancestor John Woodson, who had joined the Jamestown Colony in
Only later did I learn that both of my grandfathers were Baptist
clergymen; that James Robertson, my first Robertson ancestor,
who came to Virginia in 1695, was an Anglican clergyman; that
my Virginian Churchill and Gordon ancestors were clergymen.
Although I may have had flowing in me the blood of statesmen,
noblemen, and warriors, I had even stronger in me the blood
of priests and men and women of God.
At the end
of my second year in law school, I married a lovely young lady
from Columbus, Ohio, Dede Elmer. Dede was a graduate from Ohio
State University and was studying for a masters degree in nursing
at Yale. Dede had been a fashion model and beauty queen, and
was a runner-up to Jean Peters in the Miss Ohio State Contest.
We joked that Jean Peters got Howard Hughes and Dede got me.
Dede and I started a family that soon grew to two boys, Tim
and Gordon, and two girls, Elizabeth and Ann. From that beginning
came a very closely-knit family with 14 intelligent and