Rep. Walter Pyle fondly recalled
SHOREHAM — Former Gov. James Douglas recalled the late Walter Pyle as a congenial, common-sense lawmaker who was an effective champion for agricultural issues during his seven terms in the Vermont House.
“He was always a gentleman; I never saw him angry or disagreeable,” Douglas said of Pyle during a Thursday interview with the Addison Independent. “He had his convictions, but he respected other points of view.”
Pyle, 93, died on Nov. 26 at Helen Porter Healthcare in Middlebury. The Shoreham Republican was a decorated U.S. Army veteran of World War II. He and his wife, Edith, relocated from North Pomfret to Shoreham in 1966. There, they operated the Pocantico Farm until 2006.
Pyle’s local public service included a stint on the Shoreham Zoning Board and on the Vermont Farm Bureau board. He served seven two-year terms in the Legislature, representing the towns of Shoreham, Orwell, Bridport and Benson. He won his last two-year term in 1990, beating Orwell turkey farmer (and former Vermont Agriculture Commissioner) Paul Stone.
His legislative resumé included service on the House Agriculture, Government Operations, and Municipal Corporations committees. Pyle routinely lobbied for support for 4-H programs, smaller government and lower taxes. He vigorously opposed Act 200, a state planning law that, among other things, called for regional reviews of town plans. He was also candid in his disdain for then-House Speaker Ralph Wright, regarded as a polarizing Democrat who ran the House with an iron fist.
Pyle was pro-choice, and an advocate for property rights.
“My position is I’m against the state telling me what to do with my land,” Pyle told the Independent during a June 1990 interview. “I also wouldn’t vote for the ban on BST (a bovine growth hormone) and I think the farmers are smart enough to know what to do. And I’d say the same thing for women. The government shouldn’t tell them what to do.”
One of Pyle’s biggest legislative accomplishments was shepherding a bill through the House that helped create the Addison County Solid Waste District.
Douglas’s and Pyle’s House careers briefly overlapped. Douglas was Vermont Secretary of State during the majority of Pyle’s House tenure. Douglas said Pyle served during an era in Vermont politics in which lawmakers were by and large more civil and conciliatory than they are today. And it was also an era in which there were more dairy farmers — and many of them ran for legislative positions, Douglas recalled.
“There are very few now in the Legislature who represent that important part of our economy,” Douglas said of farmers.
Pyle will certainly be recalled fondly by those who served with him, according to Douglas.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Douglas said. “He is someone who cared about his district and his state, and not about furthering a personal agenda.”
Pyle was predeceased by his wife, Edith, who died this past July 14. He is survived by a daughter and two sons. His memorial service was held on Dec. 5 in Fair Haven. A full obituary appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 3, issue of the Independent.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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