Shore Statesman Robert S. Bloxom Sr. Dies

Robert S. Bloxom Sr. Official photograph taken when Bloxom served as Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry under Gov. Tim Kaine. Photo courtesy of the Library of Virginia.

By Carol Vaughn —

Robert S. Bloxom, Sr., 83, whose name became synonymous with statesmanship on the Eastern Shore and beyond, died Sunday at his home.
Bob Bloxom’s name almost invariably is invoked as an example of the political ideal by elected officials from both political parties during their visits to the Shore.
“I am sorry to hear of the passing of Robert Bloxom Sr., a longtime member of the House of Delegates and Virginia’s first-ever Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry,” said Gov. Ralph Northam Monday.
“Bob was a true son of the Eastern Shore. His…years in the General Assembly were spent working hard to represent the Shore’s people and advocating for its concerns and needs. Bob and I shared a love for the Shore’s land and its people, no matter what side of the aisle we were on, and I considered him a good friend and a true public servant,” Northam said, adding, “Pam and I send our deepest sympathies to the Bloxom family.”
Bloxom operated the family business, Bloxom Auto Supply in Mappsville, for many years.
Bloxom’s entry into politics came with his election to the House of Delegates, where he represented the 100th District from 1978 through 2003.
He chose not to seek a 14th term in office.
Bloxom’s son, Robert S. Bloxom Jr. (Rob), was elected to the same seat in 2014.
While in the General Assembly, the elder Bloxom served on committees that focused on agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay — both areas near and dear to Shore residents’ hearts. He served on the Agriculture, Labor and Commerce Committee and the Chesapeake and its Tributaries Committee, as well as the Appropriations Committee. Bloxom also served as chairman of the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Commission.
“Virginia has lost a great statesman and advocate for the Chesapeake Bay with the passing of Robert Bloxom Sr. His lifelong commitment to the Commonwealth, the Eastern Shore, and the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay will not be forgotten,” said Peggy Sanner, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia executive director.
Sanner added, “During his decades of work in the Virginia General Assembly, he worked on both sides of the aisle to improve the health of waterways, notably as chair of the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Commission. He will be greatly missed.”
During Bloxom’s tenure in the House of Delegates, Kiptopeke State Park, the first state park in Virginia in two decades, opened and the Eastern Shore Farmer’s Market was built with state funds, among other notable events.
Bloxom introduced legislation that established a commercial spaceport at Wallops and helped establish a dental program for school children, among other accomplishments.
Bloxom, a Republican, was known for his honesty and his ability to work across party lines.
When Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, added the position of Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry to his cabinet, he appointed Bloxom to fill it.
That was in December 2004.
Bloxom’s appointment was historic because Virginia was one of only five states without a Cabinet-level agriculture secretary.
“Bob Bloxom was a true Virginian who always put the Commonwealth first,” Warner said Monday.
“For years as governor and afterwards, whenever I was on the Eastern Shore and looking for an applause line, I would always remind folks that I appointed Bob Bloxom as the first Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. That was always greeted with a round of thundering applause, because he was that well-respected,” Warner said, adding, “I want to offer my sincerest condolences to his wife Pat, his children Lee and Robert Jr. and his four grandchildren.”
Bloxom was asked to stay on as secretary of agriculture by Warner’s successor, Gov. Tim Kaine, another Democrat. He retired from politics for the second time at age 72, when Kaine left office in January 2010.
“Bob Bloxom was the epitome of public servant — dedicated, kind, devoted to the beautiful Eastern Shore,” Kaine said Monday.
The Robert S. Bloxom Agricultural Complex in Melfa was named in his honor in 2011, after Bloxom over his decades as a public official advocated for construction of a centralized agricultural marketing facility on the Eastern Shore.
Farmland preservation was among the accomplishments Bloxom was most proud of having seen happen while he was secretary.
Another was the completion of a major economic study that found Virginia agriculture and forestry was, at the time, a $79-billion-a-year industry — a figure significantly higher than was known before the study.
As secretary, he visited every county in Virginia and traveled as far away as Cuba promoting the state’s agriculture. Increasing agricultural exports from Virginia was another accomplishment of which he was proud.
Still, Bloxom was modest about his role.
“I learned early on it’s not what one person does, but it’s what people do — each one has a little part to play in accomplishing what you want to do,” he said during a 2009 interview.
Bloxom also was known for championing local causes and served on many boards and commissions, including for Eastern Shore Community College, the Eastern Shore Public Library, the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, among others.
Bloxom particularly delighted in attending his grandchildren’s sporting events and was happy to have more time to do so after he retired.
He is survived by his wife, Pat, daughter Lee, son Rob and his wife, Lou, and four grandchildren.



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