- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Joel T. Broyhill, 86, former congressman

Joel T. Broyhill, a former Virginia congressman, died Sept. 24 at his home in Arlington of congestive heart failure and pneumonia. He was 86.

Mr. Broyhill was born in Hopewell, Va., and attended Fork Union Military Academy and George Washington University.

He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served as a captain in the 106th Infantry Division during World War II. Mr. Broyhill was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge, but he escaped after six months in Nazi prison camps to rejoin advancing American forces.

Mr. Broyhill was released from active military duty in 1945 and was awarded several medals for service and valor, including the Bronze Star. His war experiences made him especially sensitive to the plight of military forces and to threats against national security.

“Anybody who thinks war is a glorious, grand thing is crazy,” Mr. Broyhill once said. “It’s a dirty, deadly thing, and it takes several years out of the prime of many young men’s lives. I would not want to go through it again. … But it’s an experience that I think is invaluable.”

Mr. Broyhill, a Republican, was first elected to Congress in 1952 to serve the new 10th Congressional District of Virginia, which he represented for 22 years. He began his career as a member of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service and the District of Columbia and later became a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Broyhill’s legislative victories were responsible for the beginnings of the Metrorail system, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the widening of the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (Interstate 395). He was known as “Congressman Bridges Broyhill” for his influence in having the Roosevelt Bridge built as well.

Mr. Broyhill developed a reputation for constituent service that became legendary: A messenger came to his office every 30 minutes to pick up the Western Union telegrams dispatched to government agencies on behalf of constituents.

He was known for his opposition to the establishment of home rule in the District, and he frequently clashed with Walter Washington, who would become the District’s first elected mayor, and Marion Barry, the former mayor who was a community activist during Mr. Broyhill’s time in Congress.

Mr. Broyhill lost his seat in 1974 to Democrat Joseph L. Fisher, as the Republican Party suffered landslide defeats in reaction to the Watergate scandal. Mr. Broyhill had been persuaded to forgo retirement and seek another term by Vice President Gerald R. Ford, and his defeat was considered one of the biggest upsets nationally that year.

Mr. Broyhill continued to serve as an adviser to political candidates and was a campaign manager for John W. Warner’s successful first Senate campaign in 1978.

In 2000, Congress named the large regional post office in Merrifield after Mr. Broyhill in recognition of his advocacy for federal employees, including postal workers.

In civilian life before and after World War II, Mr. Broyhill worked in the family real estate business, M.T. Broyhill and Sons. Several Northern Virginia developments bear the family’s name, including Broyhill-McLean Estates and Broyhill Forest. He also served as president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Arlington County Planning Commission.

Mr. Broyhill’s first wife, Jane Marshall Bragg, died in 1978. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Suzanne M. Broyhill of Arlington; three daughters, Nancy Broyhill of Great Falls, Jane Anne Houser of Vienna, Va., and Jeanne Broyhill of Arlington; a stepdaughter, Kimberly Broyhill Lutz of New York City; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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