Robert L. (Lee) Ware, Jr. is a retired teacher and member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He represents the 65th District, consisting of the entirety of his home county of Powhatan, the precincts of Skinquarter, Tomahawk, Woolridge, Brandermill, Swift Creek, Evergreen West, Edgewater, Midlothian, Roseland, and Midlothian North in Chesterfield County; the precincts of Fife, Three Square, Sandy Hook, and Goochland Court House 2, in Goochland County; and the precincts of Columbia and Fork Union in Fluvanna County.
He is chairman of the House committee on Finance and a ranking member of the committees on Rules, Commerce & Labor, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, & Natural Resources. He serves by appointment on several commissions, including Small Business, Water, Health Insurance Reform, Coal & Energy, Unemployment Compensation, and Employment Retirement Security and Pension Reform.
He is a member, too, of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Board of Trustees, and of joint subcommittees on Local Government Fiscal Stress and Tax Preferences.
Early life and education
Lee Ware was born on August 20, 1952 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the oldest of three children of Robert Lee Ware, Sr. and Nance Caroline (Brooks) Ware. He is of English and Finnish ancestry. Among his many notable forebears is Henry Ware, Sr., his great-great-great-great grandfather, a founder of Harvard Divinity School and twice acting president of Harvard University (then Harvard College), the alma mater of many Wares across the centuries since its founding in 1636. His great-great grandfather was Colonel Francis Lowell Lee of the 44th Massachusetts Regiment. The family’s connections include many Cabots and other families long established in Massachusetts, and Delegate Ware’s roots also strike deep in Virginia.
After graduating from Lunenburg High School in 1970, he double majored in History and Literature at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and has undertaken graduate studies in those subjects in Harvard College, Asbury Seminary, Northeastern University, Longwood College, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Lee Ware served one year as Assistant Headmaster of Lexington Christian Academy, Lexington, MA. To deepen his grasp of life as it is lived, to complement his pursuit of the life of the mind, in 1980 he began a career in journalism with The Monadnock Ledger in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Wanting to live in Virginia to deepen his participation in a traditional rural Southern community, and to reinvigorate ancient familial ties, Ware relocated to Powhatan Court House in 1981 was named editor of The Powhatan Gazette. In 1984 he returned to his first vocation in education as a teacher of History and Government in Powhatan High School. Following his reception into the Catholic Church he joined the faculty of Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Academy and taught History and Government there until 2013. During this time, he was named an Outstanding Teacher of the Constitution by the James Madison Foundation. He concluded his 32-year career in education in 2014 after serving one year as Academic Dean of Benedictine College Preparatory.
Mr. Ware was encouraged to run for local office and in 1987 did so, winning election to the Powhatan Board of Supervisors representing District 4 as the first Republican candidate for county office in recent memory. He was elected to a second term in 1991. In 1995 he was the first public school teacher in modern times to be appointed, by Governor George Allen, to the State Board of Education.
In 1998 Mr. Ware was encouraged to seek the Republican nomination for special election to the House of Delegates when State Senator Joe Benedetti accepted appointment to the Administration of Governor George Allen, and then-Delegate John Watkins chose to run for the vacant State Senate Seat. Mr. Ware secured the Republican nomination in three-way convention contest and won a three-way race in the special election with 65& of votes cast.
In the two decades since, Delegate Ware has faced Democrat or Independent opposition every four years or so and has been re-elected by margins averaging 2-1.
Delegate Ware eschews ideological rigidity while adhering to principles grounded in history and experience. He believes his principal priority is to give voice to his constituents’ beliefs and to address his constituents’ needs. He also believes legislators have an obligation to serve “the good of the whole” given the Commonwealth’s vast regional differences.
He deliberates bills in the legislature in a two-fold manner: first, he asks, is the proposal something government ought to do or something best undertaken by private citizens and associations?; second, noting that the Virginia Constitution requires the legislature to adopt a balanced budget, he asks, can taxpayers afford it?
He regularly recurs to the writings of Edmund Burke, the renowned conservative legislator and philosopher, and takes guidance especially from two of Burke’s observations:
“A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation.”
“Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe.”
Delegate Ware has been the recipient of numerous civic and legislator-of-the-year awards.
As an advocate of principled and civil debate, Delegate Ware has been praised by editors of The Richmond Times-Dispatch as “a guiding light of the General Assembly” and as a legislator “prone to frequent outbursts of common sense and occasional lapses into profound civic eloquence.”
Ware and his wife, Kathy (née Nulton) met in Wilmore, Kentucky, as students, respectively, of Asbury Seminary and Asbury College. They were married in 1975, and are parents of four grown children, Karen Reid (Andrew), of Powhatan; Rob (Katy), of Atlanta, Georgia; Thomas (Lesley), of Andover, New Hampshire; and Jeb (Rachel) of Charlotte, North Carolina. The Wares have ten grandchildren. He is a member of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Powhatan.