Hopewell delegate retires after 26 years, turns speech into folksy comic monologue

RICHMOND - Usually a retirement speech on the floor of the House of Delegates is a time for reflection upon one’s career, highlighting one’s achievements and thanking one’s family for their support and sacrifice.

Then there was the one delivered Wednesday morning by Del. Riley E. Ingram, R-Hopewell. He did follow protocol to an extent by acknowledging his family at the end, but almost the entire floor speech he gave was folksy, homespun comedy, making himself the butt of the joke every time.

The 76-year-old Ingram had his fellow legislators howling with laughter as he spun story after story of his 26 years in Richmond. He jumped freely among topics, such as remembering how some of his early-year colleagues “liked to have a toddy on the floor.” Ingram recalled how those unidentified colleagues would send House pages out to get them a soda, then he demonstrated how these same colleagues would hide under their desks to add some spirits to their refreshments.

“Everything I am saying here is 100-percent true,” Ingram said between stories, drawing even more laughter from the House floor.

He then recounted how, early in his career, legislators would gather informally at the Holiday Inn on Franklin Street several nights a week after session. Ingram said he went to two of them, but told his wife that they were essentially work sessions “where we were getting a lot of things done.” Ingram said his wife eventually figured out that they were not doing much work in those sessions, so she told him the next time he went to one, “I’d come home to an empty house.

“Anybody who knew my wife knows she’d come down on me in a heartbeat,” Ingram said in mock exasperation, laughing at the memory.

Ingram got his biggest laughs when he told a story of attending the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston — “Mr. Speaker, you remember, you were there with me,” he said to House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox, drawing even more hoots — and he was invited by a young woman to dance during a convention event. To his surprise, Ingram said that event was shown on television, and his wife saw the whole thing ... and she let him know it when he called her that night.

“I just saw you on TV, and I want to know who that blonde ‘blip’ was,” Ingram recalled her telling him on the telephone. “I told her she was just trying to teach me the two-step and the cotton-eyed Joe. She said, ’I’ll cotton-eye Joe your ’blip!”

After the roars of laughter died down, Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said, “Delegate Ingram, I was there with my wife,” which drew even louder laughter.

Ingram’s wife, Mary Ann, died in 2009. But his children and grandchildren were in the gallery Wednesday morning, and he thanked them all because “they’ve been with me every step of the way.”

He also thanked his colleagues in the House on both sides of the aisle.

“I find good in everybody,” Ingram said. “I love you all, and I thank you all.”

Following an extended standing ovation, Cox called Ingram “the most genuine person” and said he was amazed at the level of constituent service Ingram gave during his tenure.

“You’ve been a real credit to this institution,” Cox told him.

Ingram, owner of a Hopewell-based real-estate company and a former Hopewell mayor, has represented the 62nd District since 1992. He announced late last year that he was retiring.

By Bill Atkinson
Bill Atkinson can be reached at 804-722-5167 or batkinson@progress-index.com. On Twitter: @BAtkinsonpi