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Chuck Robb
United States Senator
from Virginia

In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Paul S. Trible, Jr.
Succeeded by George Allen
64th Governor of Virginia

In office
January 16, 1982 – January 18, 1986
Lieutenant Richard J. Davis
Preceded by John N. Dalton
Succeeded by Gerald L. Baliles
33rd Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

In office
January 14, 1978 – January 16, 1982
Governor John N. Dalton
Preceded by John N. Dalton
Succeeded by Richard J. Davis
Personal details
Born Charles Spittal Robb
June 26, 1939(1939-06-26) (age 83)
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lynda Bird Johnson Robb
Relations Lyndon B. Johnson, father-in-law
Children Lucinda Desha Robb
Catherine Lewis Robb
Jennifer Wickliffe Robb
Alma mater University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Virginia Law School
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1961-1970
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Bronze Star
Presidential Service Badge

Robb and Lynda Bird Johnson's wedding at the White House, December 9, 1967.

Charles Spittal "Chuck" Robb (born June 26, 1939) is an American politician. He served as the 64th Governor of Virginia from 1982 to 1986, and as a United States senator from 1989 until 2001. In 2004 he chaired the Iraq Intelligence Commission.

Early life and education

Charles Robb was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, Virginia. He earned a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1961, where he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity.

A United States Marine Corps veteran and honor graduate of Quantico, Robb became a White House social aide.[1] It was there that he met and eventually married Lynda Johnson, the daughter of then U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Robb went on to serve two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he commanded a rifle company in combat, and was awarded the Bronze Star.

After the war he earned a JD from the University of Virginia Law School in 1973, and clerked for John D. Butzner, Jr., a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Afterwards he entered private practice with Williams & Connolly.[2][3]

Lt. Governor Robb speaks to guests at a luncheon during the Virginia General Assembly's tour of Marine Corps Base Quantico on February 1, 1981.

Political career

Lieutenant Governor and Governor

In 1977 Robb won election as a Democrat for the lieutenant governorship of Virginia. He served as lieutenant governor from 1978 to 1982 and as governor from 1982 to 1986. In the 1977 election, Robb was the only one of three Democrats running for statewide office to win that year, leaving him as the sole head of a political party that had not won a governor's race in a dozen years. Four years later in 1981, Robb led all three Democrats into office by appealing to conservatives who were disenchanted with his opponent's maverick style, winning 53.52% of the vote and defeating Republican J. Marshall Coleman. Virginia Democrats again won all three statewide offices in 1985, which was viewed as an endorsement of Robb's leadership while in office. As a campaigner, Robb was capable but reserved. During a time when political communication styles were beginning to favor sound bites, Robb was known for speaking in paragraphs about complex policy issues. He was also noteworthy among his contemporaries for raising substantial sums of campaign funds.

Politically, Robb was a moderate, but known as a conservative Democrat. As governor, he balanced the state budget without raising taxes, and dedicated an additional $1 billion for education. He appointed a record number of women and minorities to state positions, including the first African American to the state Supreme Court. He was the first Virginia governor in 25 years to use the death penalty. Robb was instrumental in creating the Super Tuesday primary that brought political power to the Southern states. He was also a co-founder in creating the Democratic Leadership Council. He was a strong vote-getter in Virginia in the 1980s and helped mold a more progressive Virginia Democratic Party than the one that had ruled the state for decades. He was considered a presidential or prospect for a time.

U.S. Senator

Robb later served as Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from 1989 until 2001. Robb was elected in 1988, defeating Maurice Dawkins with 71% of the vote. Robb ranked annually as one of the most ideologically centrist senators, and he often acted as a bridge between Democratic and Republican members, preferring background deal-making to legislative limelight. His fellow Democrats removed him from the Budget Committee for advocating deeper cuts in federal spending. In 1991 he was one of a handful of Democratic senators to support authorizing the use of force to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. That same year he was one of only eleven Democrats to vote in favor of Clarence Thomas's controversial nomination to the Supreme Court. In 1992 he was chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and during his term the DSCC raised record amounts of funding to elect seven new Democrats to the Senate.

Senator Robb and fellow Virginia Senator John Warner at the commissioning ceremony for the USS Arleigh Burke with Arleigh Burke and wife present and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney delivering the keynote address on July 4, 1991.

Robb is more liberal on social issues. He voted for the Assault Weapons Ban[4] and against the execution of minors.[citation needed] He was opposed to a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. In 1993 he supported President Clinton's proposal to adopt the Don't ask, don't tell policy on homosexuals in the armed forces. Three years later Robb was the only senator from a Southern state to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act.[5] In stating his opposition to the bill, which his friends and supporters urged him to support, he said the following: "I feel very strongly that this legislation is wrong. Despite its name, the Defense of Marriage Act does not defend marriage against some imminent, crippling effect. Although we have made huge strides in the struggle against discrimination based on gender, race, and religion, it is more difficult to see beyond our differences regarding sexual orientation. The fact that our hearts don't speak in the same way is not cause or justification to discriminate".[6] Some have speculated that his position on gay rights, along with his positions on other hot-button issues like abortion, only alienated the generally conservative voters of Virginia, contributing to his eventual defeat.[7]

Despite being outspent four to one, Robb narrowly defeated former Iran-Contra figure Oliver North in 1994, a poor year nationally for Democrats. Senator John Warner refused to support North and instead backed third-party candidate and former Virginia Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman, whom Robb had defeated in the 1981 gubernatorial contest. The 1994 Senate campaign was documented in the 1996 film A Perfect Candidate. During the campaign, Robb won the endorsement of former Reagan Naval Secretary (and future U.S. senator from Virginia) Jim Webb, and high-profile Republicans such as Elliot Richardson, William Ruckelshaus, and William Colby.[citation needed]

Following his re-election in 1994, Robb continued to promote fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense; he was the only senate Democrat to vote for all items in the GOP's "Contract with America" when they reached the Senate floor, including a Balanced Budget Amendment and a line item veto. He became the only senator to simultaneously serve on all three national security committees: Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence. After two terms in the Senate and 25 years in statewide politics, he was defeated in a close race in 2000 by his Republican opponent, George Allen, who was also a former governor. Robb was the only Democratic incumbent senator to be defeated in that election.

Scandals and criticisms

In June 1983, Washington Post reporter Michael Isikoff broke the news that a Robb appointee who was responsible for mine safety also owned stock in an ing where seven miners were killed in an accident during the previous month. Later, Isikoff reported that two mine inspectors also held ownership interests in companies where they were responsible for enforcing safety regulations. The highest-level appointee implicated in the scandal sold off his ownership interest in the mine and later two mine inspectors were suspended for owning shares in mines they were responsible for inspecting. Robb responded with calls for reforming conflict of interest laws, but this effort languished in the Virginia legislature and criticism of Robb on the mine safety issue likewise vanished.

In June 1984, Virginia experienced its worst death row escape when six prisoners awaiting execution overpowered guards at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center, a high-security prison, and fled in a prison vehicle. Two were immediately caught but the other four went unapprehended for weeks. Later that summer, two even more notorious death row prisoners from Richmond also escaped from their prison and were eventually recaptured in Philadelphia. In September 1984, six prisoners at a medium-security prison took a guard as hostage for six hours and demanded to be relocated to a higher-security facility for their own safety. Robb focused attention to reforming the administration of Virginia's correctional system and was not blamed for the mismanagement scandal that resulted in so many incidents of violence and escapes.

Robb with President George W. Bush and former U.S. Appeals Court Judge Laurence H. Silberman at a White House press conference announcing the formation of the Iraq Intelligence Commission which he would co-chair with Silberman, February 6, 2004.

Miss Virginia

In 1991, Robb admitted that he had spent time with former Miss Virginia USA Tai Collins alone in a hotel room during the time he was governor in the 1980s. However, he denied having an affair with her, merely admitting to sharing a bottle of champagne and receiving a nude massage. Collins later told Playboy magazine that the two had been having an affair since 1983. She said they met when Robb as Governor attended the opening of Waterside, a festival marketplace in Norfolk, Virginia. There were also rumors that during the time he was governor, Robb was present at parties in Virginia Beach where cocaine was used. He strongly denied this when the issue was raised during his 1988 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Robb so vehemently denied the cocaine allegation that he claimed to not even know what cocaine looked like. This claim only added to the sensationalism. Soon after, Collins appeared nude in Playboy.[8][9]

In 1991 a book by private detective and attorney Billy Franklin detailing his investigation of Robb's alleged cocaine use was published. Franklin was hired by a Richmond doctor to investigate Robb's alleged cocaine use leading up to the 1988 Senate Campaign. While Wilder was running for president in 1991, his aides pushed the sex and drug scandal to head off a Robb Presidential run later in 1991. Also in 1991, three of Robb's aides resigned after listening to illegally-recorded cell phone conversations of Virginia Governor (and possible 1994 Senate primary opponent) Doug Wilder. The scandal of the phone conversation morphed into a federal grand jury investigation when it was learned that Robb's staff and Robb himself may have been guilty of conspiring to distribute the contents of an illegal wiretap. Robb and his staff claimed to be unaware of the fact that that conversations on cell phones are protected by the same laws governing land lines. The grand jury concluded its work without indicting Robb. Relations between the Senator and Governor were described in the press as a "feud".[10][11]

Current life

Following his two terms in the Senate, Robb served on the Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy, and began teaching at George Mason University School of Law. On February 6, 2004, Robb was appointed co-chair of the Iraq Intelligence Commission, an independent panel tasked with investigating U.S. intelligence surrounding the United States' 2003 invasion of Iraq and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In 2006 he was appointed to serve on the U.S. President's Intelligence Advisory Board. He also served on the Iraq Study Group with former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. A New York Times article on October 9, 2006, credited Robb with being the only member of the group to venture outside the American controlled "Green Zone" on a recent trip to Baghdad. Robb has served since 2001 as a member of the Board of Trustees of the MITRE Corporation.[2] Robb serves as a co-leader of the National Security Project (NSP) at the Bipartisan Policy Center.[12] He is also a former member of the Trilateral Commission and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, for which he served on the Independent Task Force on Pakistan and Afghanistan.[2]

Personal life

He is married to Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. They have three daughters and three grandchildren and reside in McLean, Virginia.[2]


  1. "Robb, Charles". George Mason University. 2007-12-15. Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Mr. Charles S. Robb". About Us > Board of Trustees. MITRE Corporation. 8. 
  3. "U.S. Congress Votes Database: Members of Congress / Chuck Robb". Washington Post. 
  4. The Second Amendment Controversy Explained. Theodore L. Johnson. Page 516.
  5. American Civil Rights Policy from Truman to Clinton: The Role of Presidential Leadership. Steven A. Shull. Page 101.
  6. Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry. Evan Wolfson. Pages 42-43.
  7. More Than Money: Interest Group Action in Congressional Elections. Richard M. Skinner. Page 70.
  8. Sabato, Larry J. (1998-03-27). "Senator Charles S. Robb and Tai Collins". Media Frenzies in Our Time. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  9. "For sale: Gubernatorial cottage in Virginia Beach?". April 29, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  10. "Wilder-Robb Feud Heats Up Over Tape". Los Angeles Times. June 10, 1991. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  11. Ross, Michael (May 23, 1992). "Robb's Career in Peril as Feud With Wilder Heats Up". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  12. [1] "National Security Project"

External links

  • Chuck Robb at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-07-08
Political offices
Preceded by
John N. Dalton
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Richard J. Davis
Governor of Virginia
January 16, 1982 – January 18, 1986
Succeeded by
Gerald L. Baliles
United States Senate
Preceded by
Paul S. Trible, Jr.
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Virginia
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 2001
Served alongside: John W. Warner
Succeeded by
George F. Allen
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dick Gephardt
Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council
1986 – 1988
Succeeded by
Sam Nunn
Preceded by
John Breaux
Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Succeeded by
Bob Graham

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