First thing after reading the obituary for bluegrass patriarch and fellow Virginian Ralph Stanley I played my own banjo and reflected on Mr. Stanley’s life and accomplishments. One detail not mentioned was that he recorded an endorsement for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, which ran heavily on AM country radio stations in rural south-side Virginia prior to the election.
This act of courage on Mr. Stanley’s part was with the full awareness of the risk he was taking both professionally and personally by endorsing an African-American Democrat in a part of the state traditionally unfriendly to both. The endorsement swayed a considerable number of white voters, many of whom never second-guessed that decision to renounce their “heritage” of racism, bigotry, and segregation.
Since 2008 Virginia has become a reliably blue state, whose Democratic governor recently signed legislation restoring voting rights to convicted felons who have done their time and have paid their debt to society. A disproportionate number of those Virginia ex-cons who can now vote are black men. When Virginia’s white governor signed that law, one can imagine he was emboldened by what Mr. Stanley did back in 2008, paying it forward so to speak.
Chris Norden, Latah County Sanders delegate, Moscow