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William Spong Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William B. Spong Jr.
William B Spong.jpg
17th Dean of William & Mary Law School
In office
Preceded byJames P. Whyte Jr.
Succeeded byTimothy J. Sullivan
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
December 31, 1966 – January 3, 1973
Preceded byA. Willis Robertson
Succeeded byWilliam L. Scott
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 3rd district
In office
January 12, 1966 – December 31, 1966
Serving with William Hodges & William Kellam
Preceded byGordon F. Marsh
Succeeded byWillard J. Moody
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 10th district
In office
January 11, 1956 – January 12, 1966
Preceded byJames D. Hagood
Succeeded byEdward E. Willey
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Portsmouth City
In office
January 13, 1954 – January 11, 1956
Preceded byR. Winston Bain
Succeeded byWillard J. Moody
Personal details
William Belser Spong Jr.

(1920-09-29)September 29, 1920
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
DiedOctober 8, 1997(1997-10-08) (aged 77)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Virginia Wise Galliford
Alma materHampden–Sydney College
University of Virginia
University of Edinburgh
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceU.S. Army Air Forces
Years of service1942–1945
Unit93rd Bombardment Group
Battles/warsWorld War II

William Belser Spong Jr. (September 29, 1920 – October 8, 1997) was a Democratic Party politician and a United States Senator who represented the state of Virginia from 1966 to 1973.


Early life and education

Spong was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and attended public schools, Hampden–Sydney College in Hampden Sydney, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1947, commencing practice in Portsmouth soon thereafter. During World War II, Spong served in the Army Air Corps, Eighth Air Force from 1942 to 1945. After the War, Spong was a lecturer in law and government at the College of William and Mary from 1948 to 1949.

State politics

Spong entered Virginia politics as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1954 to 1955, and afterwards as a member of the Virginia State Senate from 1956 to 1966. While in the Senate, Spong was chairman of the Virginia Commission on Public Education from 1958 to 1962.

Spong during his tenure in the U.S. Senate
Spong during his tenure in the U.S. Senate

National politics

In 1966, Spong was personally recruited by President Lyndon Johnson to mount a primary challenge against 20-year incumbent Senator A. Willis Robertson. Johnson was angered at Robertson's opposition to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Spong defeated Robertson in one of the biggest upsets in Virginia political history and breezed to victory in November. Robertson resigned on December 31, 1966; Governor Mills Godwin appointed Spong to the seat, giving Spong higher seniority than other senators elected that November. Spong's primary victory marked the beginning of the end of the Byrd Organization's long dominance of Virginia politics. Spong's Senate career was short-lived; in 1972, he was narrowly defeated for reelection by 8th District Representative William L. Scott.

Spong would be the last Democrat elected to the Senate from Virginia until Chuck Robb's victory in 1988. Spong's Senate colleague, Harry F. Byrd Jr., became an independent in 1970.

Later life and death

After his Senate career, Spong returned to the practice of law, and also served as a law professor and the dean of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary from 1976 to 1985. In 1976, Spong was president of the Virginia Bar Association. He was appointed interim president of Old Dominion University in 1988, and was a resident of Portsmouth until his death. He is interred at the University of Virginia Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Personal life


A popular Internet joke claims[1] that William B. Spong of Virginia and Hiram Fong of Hawaii sponsored a bill recommending the mass ringing of church bells to welcome the arrival in Hong Kong of the U.S. Table Tennis Team after its tour of Communist China. The bill failed to pass, cheating the Senate out of passing the Spong-Fong Hong Kong Ping Pong Ding Dong Bell Bill.

In fact, Senator Spong never sponsored such a bill, but he did have some fun with the press soon after arriving in Washington, D.C. As described in an article by his cousin, the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, Senator Spong:

was invited with the other freshman senators to address the National Press Club. Fearful that someone on radio or television would call him Senator Sponge, he used his brief five-minute introductory speech to that body to secure proper name identification. His first act as a senator, he announced in his southern drawl, would be to introduce a bill to protect the rights of songwriters in Hong Kong. He would be joined in this effort by the senior senator of Louisiana, Russell Long, and the senior senator from Hawaii, Hiram Fong, and together they would present the Long Fong Spong Hong Kong Song Bill. His name was never mispronounced by members of the media.[citation needed]

Other sources crediting Spong with the humorous bill name suggest different contexts.[2][3]


Spong married the former Virginia Wise Galliford. They had two children, Martha and Tom.


  1. ^ "Spong-Fong Ping-Pong | End the War on Freedom". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  2. ^ Marjorie Hunter (February 11, 1982). "A Law By Any Other Name". New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2021. Some few years ago, members of Congress played a game, conjuring up preposterous names for bills.
  3. ^ Samuel P. King (August 22, 2004). "A good son of Hawaii, Fong left his mark on many lives". Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved June 25, 2021. (incorrectly claiming the bill was not only introduced but "passed")

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Virginia
(Class 2)

1966, 1972
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by  U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
December 31, 1966 – January 3, 1973
Served alongside: Harry F. Byrd Jr.
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Dean of the College of William & Mary Law School
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Dr. Joseph M. Marchello
President of Old Dominion University
Succeeded by
Dr. James V. Koch
This page was last edited on 22 May 2022, at 19:06
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