- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

RICHMOND U.S. Rep. Herbert H. Bateman, one of the first conservative Democrats in Virginia to break with his party and become a Republican, died yesterday. He was 72.
Mr. Bateman's frail health had prompted him to announce early this year that this session of Congress would be his last and that he would retire after nine terms.
Mr. Bateman died in his sleep early yesterday in Loudoun County, where he had planned to play golf, said Mr. Bateman's spokesman, Dan Scandling.
The cause of death was not immediately known, Mr. Scandling said.
Mr. Bateman recently had been fighting several serious ailments. In November, he had surgery to remove a buildup of arterial plaque from his carotid artery. In April 1998, he had a cancerous growth removed from his right lung.
"He was one of the most important figures in the transition from the old Virginia Democratic Party to the modern Republican Party," said Ed Matricardi, executive director of the state party.
Mr. Bateman was elected to the state Senate in 1968 as a member of the conservative Democratic faction that dominated every facet of Virginia government for most of the 20th century.
But like many Virginia Democrats at the time, he felt estranged from the liberal direction the party was heading nationally, so in 1976, he changed parties.
Today, the Republican Party controls the General Assembly, the governor's office and other top executive offices. Mr. Bateman was among five Republican congressmen from the state.
In his 18 years in the House, he made good on his campaign pledges to bring defense contracts to his southeastern Virginia district. His hometown, Newport News, is among the world's major centers for the construction of warships.
"He was a driving force in protecting Virginia from recent military downsizing efforts," Gov. James S. Gilmore III said in a statement.
Mr. Gilmore said he will not appoint an interim representative to replace Mr. Bateman because voters in Mr. Bateman's district are set to select a new House member in November.
Mr. Bateman was first elected to Congress in 1982, taking the seat held by Republican Paul S. Trible. Mr. Trible had won a U.S. Senate seat that year.
Mr. Trible, now president of Christopher Newport University, called Mr. Bateman "a leader in the fight for a strong national defense and a great friend of the shipyard and NASA," which has a large research center in Mr. Bateman's district.
"He served his constituents extremely well and will be greatly missed," Mr. Trible said in a statement.
In Congress, Mr. Bateman was a deficit hawk and fought for a balanced budget. He supported the presidential line-item veto, which Congress passed but the Supreme Court later struck down as unconstitutional.
He was a steady opponent of abortion except in cases of rape or incest, and supported capital punishment. Mr. Bateman served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as the National Security Committee.
Mr. Bateman remained popular in his district and seldom faced serious opposition for re-election.
He won the seat for the first time with 54 percent of the vote. His closest election was in 1990, when he took 51 percent of the vote over Democrat Andrew Fox. Against Mr. Fox again just two years later, Mr. Bateman won 60 percent of the vote, and in 1994, he got 74 percent of the vote over Democrat Mary Sinclair. He had no Democratic opponent in his final two re-election bids.
Mr. Bateman served in the state Senate until 1982. In 1981, he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
He was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., moved to Virginia at an early age, and graduated from Newport News High School. After his graduation from the College of William and Mary in 1949, he taught until 1951 at Hampton High School.
Mr. Bateman served in the Air Force and reached the rank of 1st lieutenant. He earned a law degree from Georgetown University in 1956 and worked as a clerk with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. He practiced law in Newport News for 25 years.
"Herb was the quintessential Virginia gentleman," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. "He was unfailingly polite to the people around him, and that was just one of the reasons he was so well-liked by members of the House from both sides of the aisle."
Mr. Bateman is survived by his wife, Laura, and two children.

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