Virginia Boyd

Published 8:13 am Monday, June 24, 2019

Virginia Boyd


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Virginia Boyd, the native-born Chicagoan who twice made Danville her home and was hailed in the Advocate-Messenger as “one of Danville’s leading activists and more outspoken citizens”, died May 31 near her home in Skokie, Illinois. She was 95.

“I love the people here and made many friends in a short time,” she told Advocate- Messenger columnist Herb Brock in 1983. In Danville, she said, “I get the best of two worlds: the culture and the arts of a city plus the wonderful people and beautiful countryside of a tranquil small-town community.”

Mrs. Boyd first moved from Chicago to Danville with her husband Samuel in September 1976. Though she recalled that coming from “the big Northern city” made the couple initially suspect, she immediately applied the skills she had acquired as a Chicago community advocate to her new environment. She began by commenting on civic issues in letters published in the local Kentucky press. Within a year of her arrival, she had organized free summer concerts at Danville’s Waterworks Park, attaining an attendance of 350 people. She also ran for Danville Commission.

The achievement which earned her recognition came in heading the fight to prevent the legalized sale of alcohol in Danville and Boyle County. The area had been “dry” since residents voted in June 1945 “in favor of adopting Prohibition,” a sentiment confirmed in a second referendum in 1949. But the effort to make the area “wet” was revived in 1977, when a petition with a sufficient valid number of signatures allowed for a third vote under state law. Within months after her arrival in Danville, Mrs. Boyd approached James L. Clark, an Advocate- Messenger columnist who died last year, to organize the opposition. Speaking to a family member just days before her death, Mrs. Boyd – who was Jewish – referred to Jim Clark — a Baptist — as having “old-time values … a great American, the best type of Christian, a modest yet very bright man. By itself, meeting him made our move to Danville worthwhile.” She served as Chairman, and he was Treasurer, of the Concerned Citizens for a Dry Community, which launched in January 1977 and soon had some 140 active members.

The wet-dry campaign turned out to be contentious, with accusations flying from both sides over allegations of improper conduct. The electorate’s decision, however, was decisive. On April 15, 1977, by the largest margin of the three referendums, the determination to maintain the area’s dry status was upheld 72-28 per cent. More Danville area residents cast votes on the wet-dry issue than for the presidential election of November 1976.

After living in Danville for five years, in 1981 she moved for a year-and-a-half to live in Cincinnati with Paul Wertheimer, a son. She returned to Danville in 1983, working until 1985 as Administrative Assistant to Asa A. Humphries, Jr., Executive Vice President and Dean of the College at Transylvania University in Lexington (who died in 2008). She was also a Community Columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Mrs. Virginia Boyd,” began Dr. Humphries’ 1985 letter of recommendation, “is a remarkable woman”. The letter ended: “She is truly exceptional.”

From Danville Mrs. Boyd would travel to Chicago to care for her mother, ultimately returning to Chicago to look after her sister. Both family members pre-deceased her.

Donations in memory of Mrs. Boyd can be made to either Berea College, Transylvania College, Centre College and the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society Inc.