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Remembering Agnes Harrison of Keep Loudoun Beautiful

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Agnes Harrison

Agnes Harrison was a great lady. Not only was she a devout partner to B. Powell Harrison on his many endeavors through his life but was a strong leader for Loudoun in her own right.

She was the founder of Keep Loudoun Beautiful and one of its leaders for many years. Harrison led the fight along with Mrs. Vinton Pickens to draft and adopt Loudoun’s first zoning ordinance and later an anti-billboard ordinance back in the 1950s and 1960s.

When James F. “Jim” Brownell and I were elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1967, Harrison soon approached us about supporting a “Bottle Bill” for Loudoun which placed a 10 cent deposit on all beer and soft drink containers. The purpose of the ordinance was to promote recycling and reuse, clean up roadside litter and make the drinks cheaper to the consumer.

With her strong support and leadership, Brownell and I co-sponsored the Bottle Bill Ordinance and got it passed over the loud objections from the industry. Harrison made fools of the industry lobbyist and representatives who descended on Loudoun like locust in opposition to this measure at the 1971 public hearing. They admonished us to “vote down this crazy idea which would be like requiring square wheels on their delivery trucks.”

At the conclusion of her presentation, Harrison proceeded to dump all the cans and bottles on the floor of the boardroom of the old Harrison Hotel where the board met. She then turned to powerful lobbyist Bill Thomas with the feisty remark, “let the industry clean them up.”

The Virginia Supreme Court later overturned the Loudoun Ordinance but in 1971 after being elected to the Senate of Virginia I sponsored a statewide bottle bill and Harrison switched her battle to Richmond. We continued our efforts to get this legislation enacted all through the 1970s and managed to get the measure out of committee and to the senate floor on one occasion where it was defeated on a close vote.

Brownell and I accompanied the Harrisons on two visits to England in 1974 and a decade later in the mid-1980s. In our group – led by the Harrisons – were local and state public officials, business leaders and environmentalists from Virginia’s Piedmont. Our mission was to study the English concept of land use planning. I remember Harrison was amazed along with all of us that England had 60 million people living on 60 million acres of land with an abundance of open space. Our hope was to bring some of the British ideas and know how on preserving their greenbelts and open space back to rapidly developing Loudoun and other areas of the Piedmont.

Both Agnes and Powell Harrison were leaders in fighting the development of a Disney Theme Park in western Prince William just off Route 15 near Haymarket proposed by Disney and then-governor George Allen. We were successful in defeating this development in Richmond through the strong efforts of Agnes and Powell Harrison, Brown Morton, author David McCullough, Memory Porter and other environmental leaders in our region.

Finally Harrison worked shoulder to shoulder with Powell on his last major project before his death which was the preservation and restoration of Dodona Manor, Gen. George C. Marshall’s Leesburg home. She came to Richmond in 1988 with her husband and Leesburg Mayor Bob Sevila in support of my successful budget amendment for $500,000 to help purchase the property and save it from a strip mall.

Agnes Harrison made a difference in Loudoun County and her name will hang in a place of honor along with her beloved husband Powell as a major figure in the history of this county. In time her family and friends may become accustomed to not having her among us but we shall never forget her good and cheerful way of life. 

Mrs. Harrison is survived by three children: B. Powell Harrison III, Lalla Saleeby and Catherine Kelly and 12 grandchildren.

The Harrison family will welcome friends at Dodona Manor from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 25. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m.  Jan. 26 at St. James Episcopal Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Dodona Manor, Oatlands or the Penick Foundation in North Carolina.

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