1954-1958: Terra Incognita

The Governor Intercedes


With the Sunset Hills site selection confirmed by a 9 to 2 vote of the Board of Visitors, the selection of the Bowman property was all but complete. The only issue remaining was obtaining the approval of Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. for the acquisition of the parcel from the Bowman family. Mann, who felt that Northern Virginians were about to be done a major disservice by the selection of this location against their wishes, was determined to prevent this scenario from happening. Soon after he learned of the Board of Visitors vote, he requested and was granted a meeting with Governor Almond in his office at Richmond to confer about the situation. The General Assembly was still in session at the time, so Mann was scheduled to be in Richmond. Although he did not disclose the details of this visit to the Board of Visitors, he did discuss it with his colleagues on the Board of Control afterwards.

Mann asserts in his manuscript that he did not visit Governor Almond as a member of the Board of Control, but rather as a Northern Virginian. He explained the situation fully to Governor Almond in his office. Mann focused on the key issue in the minds of the Board and their constituents, which was that the Sunset Hills location would never serve the population of Northern Virginia adequately. The citizens for whom it was going to be built did not want the branch located there. Governor Almond told Mann that if the people of Northern Virginia did not want the Bowman site, then the Commonwealth would not accept it.[1] On April 16th the Board of Visitors petitioned the governor to approve the transfer of ownership of Sunset Hills to the University. Almond declined to do so citing the disapproval of the four major municipalities it was intended to serve.[2] After two years of hard work by the representatives of Northern Virginia and the University of Virginia, a site on which to build the new branch college in Northern Virginia had still not been secured.

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[1] Mann Unpublished Draft, pp. 132-133

[2] Ibid. pp. 132-133