Charles S. “Chuck” Robb offered as lieutenant branch (1978–1982) and also governor that Virginia (1982–1986) and for 2 terms together U.S. City council (1989–2001). The son-in-law the U.S. President lyndon B. Johnson, Robb gotten in Virginia politics as a “celebrity” without the customary résumé of serving in reduced office. A Democrat, Robb was critical in reviving his party’s fortunes in the state after ~ a duration of Republican dominance. His choice in 1981 ushered in the an initial of 3 consecutive democratic governorships. A moderate, Robb likewise played a duty in national politics, relocating his party to the center yet never seeking nationwide office himself. His promising career was tarnished through a collection of scandals and he was ultimately defeated for reelection in 2000.

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Contributor: Dwayne Yancey

Early Life and also Career

Charles Spittal Robb was born ~ above June 26, 1939, in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew increase in Alexandria, Virginia. He graduated from the university of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961 and also joined the U.S. Naval Corps, graduating through honors from the maritime training institution in Quantico, Virginia. That led to an assignment as a social aide at the White House, whereby he met and later married Lynda Bird Johnson, the daughter of then-president lyndon Johnson. The pair married in ~ the White home on December 9, 1967. Robb go on come serve two tours of combat duty throughout the Vietnam battle (1961–1975), wherein he commanded a rifle firm and won a copper Star. The left the Marines in 1970 and also entered the university of Virginia institution of law in Charlottesville. That clerked because that a commonwealth judge and went on to work in private exercise in northern Virginia.

In the mid-1970s, Virginia Democrats to be in a state of political freefall. Both the Republicans and also Democrats were realigning complying with the finish of the Byrd company that had dominated the state due to the fact that early in the twentieth century. Numerous conservatives were leaving the autonomous Party to come to be either Independents or Republicans. The staying Democrats uncovered themselves torn in between liberals who identified more with their nationwide counterparts, and moderates that felt the only means to success in right-of-center Virginia was to street themselves indigenous the nationwide party. Autonomous in-fighting, and also their own growing numbers, buoyed Republicans. The Republican Party appeared on its means to coming to be the state’s leading political reality after it winner the governorship in 1969 (Linwood Holton) and also in 1973 (Mills Godwin).

Amid this political tumult Robb showed up on the scene in 1977 together a candidate for lieutenant governor. The emphasized his marine service and also positioned himself together a politics centrist, i beg your pardon appealed to moderates and the conservative who had actually remained in the autonomous fold. His relations to the Johnson management re-assured part liberals and especially african American voters, who attributed the Johnson administration with the Civil legal rights Act that 1964 and also the Voting rights Act the 1965. Opponents called him a “carpetbagger” v no experience, but Robb breezed to success in a three-way democratic primary.

The 1977 autonomous primary perfectly shown a party in transition, producing a ticket of 3 candidates with tiny in common: the free Henry E. Howell, Jr. For governor, the middle Robb for lieutenant governor, and also the conservative Ed lane for attorney general. Democrats tried to celebrate the odd pairing through billing theirs as a “rainbow” ticket, even producing buttons v a rainbow logo. On election day, however, just Robb won, trouncing Republican state city council Joe Canada through 54 percent to 46 percent. V his election, Robb became the only Democrat stop statewide office, make him instantly the party’s highest-ranking leader and also the obvious candidate for branch in 1981.


The 1981 campaign for Virginia governor pitted Robb against Marshall Coleman, the Republican attorney general. It also ushered in a brand-new generation of leadership. Both men were young—Robb remained in his early forties, Coleman in his late thirties. Both were also former Marines who had actually seen combat in Vietnam. And also both had actually reputations together political moderates, which created fascinating politics as both men jockeyed for support. Robb’s personality—often viewed as “stiff” or “stolid” or “ramrod straight”—proved reassuring to plenty of members the the organization community, who were put off by Coleman’s more mercurial style. Robb not only won—with 53.5 percent of the poll to Coleman’s 46.4 percent—he led a democratic sweep of sublievenant governor and attorney general, together well.

Robb promised a cautious, if somewhat steady administration. He devoted more money for education than his predecessor, yet did no raise taxes. On the one hand, the appointed a record number of women and minorities to state offices. When a seat on the state can be fried Court ended up being vacant, Robb seized the opportunity to appoint john Charles Thomas, the state’s very first African American justice. Top top the various other hand, Robb also oversaw the imposition the the fatality penalty, the first time in twenty years that Virginia had executed a prisoner. Prisons came to be a surprise focus of his administration. In 1984, six death row detainees overpowered guards and escaped. They were ultimately recaptured, however it take it weeks before all to be tracked down. In spite of the embarrassment, Robb avoided blame and won high marks for his regulating of the situation.

Robb likewise stepped top top the national stage, attempting come nudge the nationwide party towards the center. That helped create the first “Super Tuesday” presidential primary, designed to give much more clout to southerly states and also presumably create a an ext moderate nominee. In the consequences of Walter Mondale’s landslide defeat in the 1984 presidential campaign, Robb helped found the autonomous Leadership Council, a group of moderates that sought a higher voice in party affairs. Plenty of political commentators pegged him together a future candidate for president or evil president.

Robb constantly scored high in approval polls through Virginia voters. Back Virginia governors room not permitted to look for reelection, the ultimate verdict on Robb’s management may have actually come in 1985. For the second time in 2 elections, Virginia voted because that a democratic sweep, electing Gerald J. Baliles as governor, together with the very first African American, L. Douglas Wilder, as lieutenant governor, and also the very first woman to win statewide office, mar Sue Terry, together attorney general. It came to be fashionable for commentators come say the Robb had actually made the “respectable” to be a Virginia Democrat again.

Senate Election and also Scandals

In 1987, U.S. Senator Paul Trible, a Republican, stunned the state through announcing his retirement after just one term. Trible stated he want to spend an ext time through his family, yet many believed he wanted to protect against a bruising campaign against Robb, who was commonly assumed come be preparing to operation the complying with year. Republicans struggled to find a candidate willing to take it on the famous former governor, ultimately settling ~ above the little-known Maurice Dawkins. Robb winner a lining 71 percent the the poll in what otherwise was not a particularly great year for Democrats. Given his success in Virginia at a time once Democrats were faring poorly across the South, Robb was stated as a potential U.S. Presidential candidate. This to be to prove the high suggest of Robb’s career.

Three associated scandals quickly ensnared Robb. The trouble began in 1988 through reports that, while governor, he had actually socialized at next in Virginia Beach where cocaine and prostitutes were present. In ~ first, the reports gained tiny traction since they were completely at odds through Robb’s public persona as a straight-arrow Marine. However as a federal investigation right into drug use in Virginia coast widened, Robb confronted increasingly uncomfortable questions around his behavior. Robb denied any involvement, also famously speak he had no idea what cocaine looked like. Robb’s join that the instructed his state police security detail to stay away from the parties, however, elevated questions about his activities.

In April 1991, Robb’s troubles deepened as soon as a previous beauty queen—Tai Collins, miss Virginia USA in 1983—claimed she had actually once had an affair with him when he was governor. Robb refuse the affair, however admitted he had received a nude massage in a brand-new York City hotel room.

To make matters worse, Robb uncovered himself embroiled in a feud with the newly chosen lieutenant governor. Doug Wilder claimed that Robb had not sufficiently helped his campaign; Robb accused Wilder of not giving sufficient credit come the function his management played in paving the method for Wilder’s election. One day, an amateur radio buff picked up a mobile conversation in i m sorry Wilder might be heard joking about Robb’s trouble. One audiotape of the conversation discovered its means into the hand of part members that Robb’s staff. Hope to draw away public fist away from the Virginia beach situation, Robb’s staffers leaked the tape come the press as a way to present that Wilder to be trying come capitalize on Robb’s troubles.

The relocate backfired. The tape to be illegal, and also three staff members were indicted and also eventually pleaded guilty to commonwealth charges. A federal cool jury investigated Robb himself, trying out the question of whether he knew about the illegal taping and also approved the leak. Robb take it the unusual—and legitimate risky—step of testifying prior to the grand jury. In January 1993, after ~ eighteen month of investigation, the cool jury decided versus indicting Robb. However his once-bright star had actually been tarnished, perhaps beyond repair.

As a result of the scandals, Robb was fragile in his bid for reelection in 1994. But when Oliver North, the previous aide to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, emerged as his Republican opponent, the gyeongju became complex for Republicans. North was at the facility of the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal, and also his project so polarized the party the U.S. Senator man Warner, a Virginia Republican, denounced North and also instead orchestrated an elevation bid by Marshall Coleman, the former attorney basic whom Robb had defeated in 1981. Phibìc led most of the campaign, while democrats complained the Robb made couple of efforts to protect himself and stayed in Washington, D.C. In the final week, though, Robb fight the project trail for a frenzied press that experienced him lastly pull front in the polls. That won v a small plurality. For the very first time, Robb polled less than a bulk of the vote, taking simply under 46 percent to North’s 43 percent and also Coleman’s 11 percent. Analysts agreed that Coleman’s independent bid helped pull sufficient votes indigenous moderate Republicans, who could neither stomach North no one were ready to vote for a Democrat, come insure Robb’s victory.

Politics in the Senate

During his 2 terms in the Senate, Robb wanted to work behind the scenes. He focused mostly on nationwide security and also budget matters. He came to be the just senator to ever serve at the same time on all three national security committees: armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations.

He was frequently ranked as among the more centrist members, commonly voting much more often with liberals top top social concerns and more often with conservatives ~ above fiscal and also national security matters. He was one of only ten autonomous senators to poll in favor of using force to expel Iraqi pressures from Kuwait in 1991. He also was one of only eleven democracy to vote to check Clarence cutting board as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator john Warner dubbed Robb a “bridge builder.” Robb’s focus on fiscal restraint, however, led fellow Democrats to eliminate him from the budget Committee.

Nevertheless, Robb voted because that the ban on assault weapons, opposed a constitutional amendment come outlaw flag burning, backed U.S. President bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays serving in the military, and also voted against the Defense of marriage Act. His high-profile support of such liberal measures—along with his dilute political condition from the assorted scandals—once again do Robb’s reelection a target for Republicans in 2000. This time, republicans nominated former Virginia governor George F. Allen. Robb ran one uninspired campaign and lost. Allen took 52 percent that the poll to Robb’s 48 percent. He later told the Washington Post: “I obtained tired. My heart wasn’t in that anymore.”

Later Years

Out the office, Robb devoted his time to teaching and occasional business on international policy panels. The co-chaired the Iraqi knowledge Commission, an live independence panel that investigated American intelligence leading up to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq in 2003. He also served ~ above the Iraq research Group, a bipartisan dashboard appointed by the U.S. Conference to recommend plan in Iraq. The panel advised in December 2006 the the American troop presence be reduced; U.S. President George W. Bush ignored the report and also instead notified a “surge” of troops to Iraq. The New York Times reported that throughout the group’s visit to Baghdad, Iraq, Robb was the just member to endeavor outside the so-called “Green Zone” the American security.

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Residing in McLean, Robb join the faculty the George Mason college in Fairfax as a identified professor that law and public policy in 2001.