November 30, 2015 News & Press Releases

FROM The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Former Speaker of the House Moss dies at 87

by Richmond Times-Dispatch

*This article is from the Richmond Times-Dispatch please visit this link for original article.

Posted: Friday, November 27, 2015 9:15 pm
Thomas Warren “Tom” Moss Jr., whose tenure as speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates closed the era of Democratic dominance over the chamber, has died at 87.
Norma Moss, the wife of the former speaker, said her husband died Thursday after suffering a heart attack while visiting family in South Carolina, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Moss, a silver-haired, wise-cracking lawyer, served as speaker of the House from 1991 to 2000.
“Tom was a fierce competitor, was passionate about his beliefs and had a sharp sense of humor,” said current Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford. “The House of Delegates mourns the loss of a friend.”
Former House Majority Leader C. Richard Cranwell, D-Roanoke County, said, “Tom was a gregarious guy who could bring people with different views together.”
Cranwell, who had opposed Mr. Moss for the speakership, said the two had “absolutely” gotten over their rivalry. “It was more of a problem for other people than for us. Tom and I got along just fine.”
Serving at the close of the Democrats’ centurylong run on legislative power, “Tom was a speaker during a transition period — and I thought he managed it well,” Cranwell said. “We worked with a thin majority. That meant he had to make a lot of close calls. And he made ’em.”
In November 1999, Republicans gained three seats to take control of the House while retaining their 21-19 majority in the state Senate, thus winning control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in modern history.
S. Vance Wilkins Jr. succeeded Mr. Moss and became the first Republican speaker of the House.
‘Larger than life’
As a legislator, Mr. Moss, who served in the House from 1966 to 2002, specialized in corporate and banking issues.
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, who served as counsel and then-chief of staff to Mr. Moss as speaker, likened him to Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil, the legendary speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
“He was kind of larger than life,” she said.
Mr. Moss ran for the legislature on the slogan “Get Norfolk Out of the Byrd Cage,” as part of a political challenge to the conservative Democratic machine run by U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. “He was quite an upstart in his youth,” said Gastanaga, who recalled teasing him later in life for “joining the Establishment.”
Mr. Moss possessed a ribald sense of humor and a razor wit, which he would wield against hapless delegates trying to get legislation through the House Courts of Justice Committee, then chaired by C. Hardaway Marks, a cigar-chomping Democrat from Hopewell, along with then-Del. Theodore V. Morrison, a Newport News Democrat.
Morrison said Friday that Mr. Moss’ humor helped the committee through the “night of long knives” at the crossover point in each assembly session when, in the wee hours of the morning, the committee disposed of hundreds of bills it did not like.
“In those days, it would have been unbearable if we didn’t have a lot of humor,” Morrison said.
Mr. Moss was exceptional at “corralling votes” and making legislative deals, he added. “He was a very effective legislator; there’s no question about that, and a leader.”
Mr. Moss, as chairman of Corporations, Insurance and Banking — now known as Commerce and Labor — often would remind legislators who used humor in their presentations that “the chairman makes the jokes.”
His legal specialties were corporate law and criminal defense, but his passions were “Virginia Tech, Norfolk and the Chesapeake Bay,” Gastanaga said.
In 1982, Mr. Moss held off a tough primary challenge from Edythe Harrison, whom he dubbed “Edie Amin.” Months after women’s groups had targeted him in the primary contest, Mr. Moss announced his support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Few people in the legislature were closer to Mr. Moss than former Del. Alan Diamonstein, D-Newport News. Diamonstein said Friday that he got the news of Mr. Moss’ death from Cranwell.
“He was a very devoted individual to his friends,” Diamonstein recalled emotionally. “He was a fierce competitor. He was good for the commonwealth.”
“I can’t think of anybody who disliked him,” he said. “They may have disagreed with him.”
A long memory
A partisan as speaker, Mr. Moss was accused for years of under-representing minority Republicans on legislative committees.
He also had a long memory. In February 1999, he left Dels. Lacey E. Putney, I-Bedford, and R.R. “Andy” Guest Jr., R-Warren, off the House budget negotiating team because of their roles in a 1998 attempt to overthrow him as speaker.
In January 1998, Democrats had rammed through Mr. Moss’s re-election as speaker of a closely divided House before three Republicans who had won special elections were sworn in.
Some Republicans shouted and slammed their desktops as Democrats voted to give Mr. Moss another term as speaker. “Objection!” shouted Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William. “This is Sherman’s march through Georgia.”
As Mr. Moss was sworn in that day, several Republicans turned their backs in silent protest.
Mr. Moss and Marshall often were colorful parliamentary sparring partners. Even after he had retired from the legislature, Mr. Moss kept a photo of himself ruling against an amendment Marshall had proposed to a bill.
Unruly caucus
Mr. Moss, who was not above wearing a Cat in the Hat chapeau to honor “Read Across Virginia Day,” poked fun at himself and others, but he sometimes struggled to keep the unruly House Democrats in line.
In January 1999, he groused that the legislature was spending too much time speechifying on bills that would designate a state reptile and a state soil.
“We’ve spent more time on turtles and dirt than on meaningful legislation,” Mr. Moss said.
He once ordered the sergeant at arms to seize devices — often children’s toys — that lawmakers used to make sound effects on the House floor, such as a “Sesame Street” book equipped with a sound card.
In 1999, Virginia delegates rejected a Senate resolution encouraging television coverage of legislative sessions. During the debate, a number of Democratic delegates noisily tapped their microphone cords.
“Find some other toy to play with,” Mr. Moss admonished.
Once Republicans took control of the House, the GOP also had control of redistricting after the 2000 census. In 2001, then-Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican, signed off on new boundaries that put Mr. Moss in the same district as a fellow Norfolk Democrat, Del. Jerrauld Jones.
Mr. Moss chose to leave the legislature and run for the post of Norfolk treasurer. He followed the example of fellow Democrat Joseph T. Fitzpatrick, who had resigned from the state Senate to run for treasurer of Norfolk rather than lose his seat as a result of redistricting in 1981.
Mr. Moss served as Norfolk’s treasurer until he retired in January 2014.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement Friday that Mr. Moss “was an energetic soldier for the city of Norfolk, for Hampton Roads, for the commonwealth of Virginia and for disadvantaged men, women and children who needed a champion.
“He served in the House of Delegates with humor, intellectual rigor and a strong respect for the legislative process,” McAuliffe added.
“He was a larger-than-life personality who made the state Capitol a richer place, and he was a man of substance who made Virginia a better commonwealth for all of its citizens.”
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
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