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Women In History: Patricia Royal Perkinson

by Larry Chowning    

Pat Royal Perkinson, second from right, participated in this 1936 Circus Day held in Saluda on Easter Monday. She went on to become Secretary of the Commonwealth in Virginia. In the photo above, Saluda children under the direction of Saluda’s Tom Jones put on a self-styled Barnum and Hayloft children’s circus. Such performances as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” were performed and a parade afterward. Pictured above in the parade are, from right, Bobby Moody, Perkinson, Jane Royal, Charles Bristow, Hannah Bourne, Ray Major, Tom Jones, Bill Moody, Katherine Kipps, and Helen Moody. (Courtesy of Jean Holman)

     As part of the Middlesex County Museum’s celebration in March of Women’s History Month, the museum is recognizing the late Patricia (Pat) Royal Perkinson.

   Pat, a native of Middlesex County, rose through the political ranks to become Administrative Assistant to Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. She made a name for herself as Press Aide to Godwin during his first term, from 1966 to 1970. When he returned for a second term in 1974, she served as Secretary of the Commonwealth, her duties included assisting the state boards and commissions.

     She was later named Administrative Assistant to the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College systems. Perkinson joined Godwin’s staff after having been responsible for public relations during the Godwin-Pollard-Button campaign in 1965. Prior to that, she was a feature writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Rural Virginia Magazine.

     Through the Times-Dispatch, Perkinson wrote a column on garden advice for 18 years in the Sunday issue, “Calling All Gardeners”. She also wrote poetry, articles, and stories for other publications, as well as doing public relations work for groups ranging from Maymont to the March of Dime. She served as President of Virginia Press Women. The group named her Woman of Distinction and, twice, Press Woman of the Year.

     In 1996, Perkinson spearheaded Middlesex County’s grant-funded “Rivers And Roads of Middlesex County, Va.”, a self-guided tour of historic and scenic sites in the county. When the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors established a 2007 Middlesex County 400th Jamestown Anniversary Committee, Perkinson was appointed to the committee and through her diligent efforts pressed to have a complete history of Middlesex County written and published because none had ever been undertaken. She died, however, on February 14, 2010, before the text was completed, but her efforts were realized when “Signatures in Time – A Living History of Middlesex County” was completed and published in 2012.

     In March of 2010, Virginia House Delegate Harvey Morgan, presented a resolution in the General Assembly, “House Joint Resolution No. 388, Celebrating the life of Patricia Royal Perkinson. WHEREAS, a woman of great vision and determination who cared immensely about her community, profession, and the Commonwealth, Patricia Perkinson served as an outstanding role model for all,” it stated.

    Perkinson and her husband Bert retired to Prospect in Topping and lived out their lives there. She was a longtime member of the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society Board and of the Middlesex County Public Library Board.

     She was a constant voice for preserving county history. When voices within the library wanted to sell historical books in the Urbanna Branch given by Rutherford Snell, to make space, she was a formidable opponent whose voice aided in keeping the books intact. She noted, however, at the time “when trying to preserve history you often in the battle but seldom win the war.” Snell’s collection of historical Virginia books remains today in the cabinet that Perkinson and others had made for the new collection. The museum houses the Snell research papers for the book “Historic Buildings in Middlesex County Virginia 1650-1875.”

    Hats off to the late Pat Perkinson whose years in retirement living at Prospect was a gift to Middlesex County.

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