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Former colleagues mourn the death of longtime state Sen. Russ Potts
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Former colleagues mourn the death of longtime state Sen. Russ Potts

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Kaine and Potts

On March 1, 2004, state Sen. Russ Potts, R-Winchester (right) smiled as Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine talked about a Senate resolution honoring Potts, a former athletic administrator who had been named to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Former Virginia Senate colleagues are mourning the loss of longtime state Sen. Russ Potts, a Winchester Republican who died Sunday at 82.

Mr. Potts, the first sports promoter named to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, represented the Winchester area in the Senate from 1992 to 2008.

He led the Senate Education and Health Committee for the last five years of his tenure.

Mr. Potts considered himself a political moderate and ran for governor as an independent in 2005, trailing far behind Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore.

Mr. Potts got 2.2% of the vote, but Virginia politicos remember his 2005 campaign for his humorous and cacophonous “We Want Potts” TV ad, which featured an assortment of supporters banging on pots and pans and chanting “We Want Potts!”

Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, noted in a statement that he and Mr. Potts were both first elected in 1991.

“His love of sports and innate skill for showmanship made him ideally suited for this pursuit. And, it meant that Russ could achieve something to which we all aspire: loving his job,” Norment said.

“Russ loved serving the Commonwealth in the Senate of Virginia, too. He approached bills he was sponsoring with a sense of urgency and excitement. His personality and presentations peppered with signature flourish made Russ’s bill presentations before committees genuinely entertaining.”

Mr. Potts, who was born in Richmond, graduated from the University of Maryland in 1964.

He returned to Maryland in 1970 as sports marketing director and worked on innovations such as a prime-time men’s college basketball television package. He sold ads on scoreboards, crammed its programs with ads and built its radio network from one station to 55.

According to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Potts “changed the world of collegiate sports through his innovative marketing ideas and an unmatched enthusiasm for athletics.”

In 1978, at the age of 38, he was named athletic director at Southern Methodist University. He left in 1981 to become a vice president of baseball’s Chicago White Sox. Mr. Potts served a stint as sports editor of The Winchester Star and formed his own sports marketing business in 1982.

In December 1982, Turner Broadcasting System and Potts’ Sports Productions Inc. partnered on a marquee prime-time, nationally televised match-up at Capital Centre between the University of Virginia and 7-4 senior Ralph Sampson, and Georgetown, led by 7-foot sophomore Patrick Ewing. In a battle of undefeated teams, UVA prevailed 68-63.

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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