Former W.Va lawmaker dies

June 03, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.-Robert M. Steptoe, a former judge and state legislator from Martinsburg, died in his home Saturday after a brief illness. He was 87.

Sons Bob and Jim Steptoe said during a Saturday night telephone interview that their father was surrounded by loved ones at the time of his death.

"He was very close to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren," Bob said. "Dad was very strong and very upbeat and positive to the end."

Despite keeping a busy schedule in the West Virginia Legislature and serving as a banker, lawyer and judge, Bob said his father was family-oriented.


While driving his children to school, the elder Steptoe used to grill his children on spelling and multiplication tables, Bob said.

Born in Clarksburg, W.Va., in 1920, Robert Steptoe left college to serve in the U.S. Navy from 1941 to 1945. He spent time in the Atlantic Theater on a subchaser, providing escorts for merchant ships.

Steptoe also was active during the invasions of Sicily, Anzio and southern France.

He graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1949.

Steptoe and his wife, Sarah Virginia Duff Steptoe, celebrated 65 years of marriage April 2.

They raised four children, Bob, Jim, Philip and Sally.

Steptoe served from 1962 to 1982 in the Legislature, Jim said.

His father was particularly proud of helping to lead the fight that made auto insurance a requirement in West Virginia, thus protecting the driver and victim of an accident, Jim said.

"He could write a bill in the Legislature just like he could write a bill for a little old lady," Jim said. "My father was a craftsman of well-written legislation and a builder of compromise."

In addition, Steptoe introduced legislation, known as the Bottle Bill, to protect the environment from litter, Jim said.

Shortly after Steptoe left the Legislature, he served as judge of the West Virginia Court of Claims, retiring in 2001.

He and Sarah spent much of their retirement traveling the world despite the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bob said. They completed a four-week sailing cruise from Greece to Thailand in 2001.

"He was a product of the greatest generation," Bob said. "The scope of his experience, his determination ... It baffles me to this day.

"I don't know how he did it."

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