Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — Bruce Jamerson, who served as clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates for 20 years, died Sunday. He was 53.
Virginia State Police said officers found Jamerson's body around 2:30 a.m. Monday along a walking path beside the James River in Powhatan County hours before House members were to reconvene a special legislative session on redistricting.
Medical examiner spokesman Steve Murman says Jamerson died of a gunshot wound to the head and his death was ruled a suicide.
State Police were called to search for Jamerson shortly before midnight on Sunday after his car was found parked not far from where search dogs discovered his body.
While the unexpected death shocked the state's elected officials, the House reconvened at 3 p.m. Monday as scheduled.
Many delegates from around the state were already in Richmond when they learned of Jamerson's death, making it logistically difficult to cancel the session, said G. Paul Nardo, spokesman for House Speaker William Howell.
A black drape covered the lectern from which Jamerson oversaw the 100-seat House chamber. His chief deputy, Jeff Finch, set up a podium immediately to the left of the lectern from which to manage Monday's session. Jamerson's staff gathered with Senate Clerk Susan Schaar's staff at the rear of the cavernous room, hugging and consoling one another, some of them weeping softly.
The session opened with a prayer for Jamerson. At least 18 delegates offered remembrances of him, and the House adjourned Monday in his honor. The Senate's opening prayer included more than a minute of silence for Jamerson, and several senators recalled him fondly in floor speeches.
House Democratic House Minority Leader, Ward Armstrong of Martinsville, recalled telling the fastidious Jamerson that he had bought a kilt and planned to wear it one day onto the House floor. "He said, 'Well, I guess you can do that as long as you wear a coat and tie, Del. Armstrong,'" he said.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said Jamerson was the first person in the General Assembly that she informed of her pregnancy more than a year ago. "He said, 'This is historic. You are the first member of the House of Delegates to be pregnant.' Only Bruce Jamerson would know something like that," she said.
Bruce Franklin Jamerson was elected by the House's 100 members to the job of clerk and keeper of the rolls of the commonwealth on Oct. 15, 1991, when the House was controlled by Democrats. He was retained when Republicans won their first House majority eight years later.
Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said there was discussion of replacing Jamerson after the GOP took over the House, but Jones and two other Republicans interceded "because he was a professional, and we knew we needed a professional to help us if we were going to accomplish the things we had promised."
Jamerson played an indispensible and often exhausting administrative role in how laws are made in Virginia. Jamerson and his staff kept track of thousands of bills annually that work their way through the General Assembly's system of subcommittees, committees, parliamentary maneuvers and floor votes.
During marathon legislative floor debates that sometimes stretch from midmorning to midnight or beyond, Jamerson would stand for hours at his lectern on the House dais, directly in front of the speaker, announcing each bill or amendment, clarifying its status when asked, and recording votes.
"He was a consummate professional who understood well that the first rule of success is hard work. That he always did without fail, with a warm and friendly demeanor and out of an abiding respect for every member, staff colleague or visitor to Mr. Jefferson's Capitol," Howell said in a statement his office issued.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, a 14-year member of the House, called Jamerson "a State Capitol institution."
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