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Where have all the Venus Rameys gone?

| Sunday, April 29, 2007

WASHINGTON

It was the 1940s when Venus Ramey came to Washington to work in the then-"war effort." She was 18 and beautiful, had been a page in the Kentucky House of Representatives and had a radio program. Now, 60 years later, it could be said that she came from an activist environment. In 1944, Venus entered the Miss America contest and won.

Venus Ramey was the first redhead and the only Kentuckian to win that contest. On April 13, Ms. Ramey, now 82, was walking on her property, a tobacco farm in Kentucky. She was alerted by her dogs who sensed trouble. Ramey had walked into a situation that would have caused many to run: One of her barns was being ransacked by thieves.

She quickly drew her .38-caliber pistol, steadied her walker and effectively shot out the tires of the truck being used as a getaway vehicle. She shouted to a passing motorist to call the police and held the three men at gunpoint until they were arrested.

Ramey, certainly more than most, embodies a number of America's great traditions -- honor, valor and the right to self-defense.

Ramey has a relative who fought in the Revolutionary War, a grandfather who was a Kentucky state senator and a father who served Kentucky as a state representative. Her family has grown tobacco leaf in Kentucky for 350 years. Following its political traditions, she became the first Miss America to run for public office but lost her bid for a seat in the Kentucky House. Undeterred, she went on to host her own radio show and publish her own political newspaper.

Ramey was on radio in neighboring West Virginia as a child and a teenager. She left Paintsville, Ky., where she grew up, to come to Washington in the 1940s, where she worked as a typist and signed on as a Conover model.

After winning the 1944 Miss America title, Ramey traveled extensively throughout the United States on USO tours and to sell war bonds. She was given a citation by the U.S. Treasury Department. Her picture had been painted on a B-17 bomber that flew more than 68 missions over Germany.

While in Washington, Ms. Ramey worked for Sen. Arthur Capper from Kansas on legislation that gave Washingtonians the right to vote in 1947. She received a number of offers from Hollywood, one of which was for a major Warner Brothers film. But disgusted with show business, she returned home to Kentucky to marry and begin raising two sons.

She moved to Cincinnati and became known as the woman who saw the "Over-the-Rhine" project through to fruition. She was elected to the city council. "Over-the-Rhine," a four-square-mile area of 19th century German and Italian buildings, now enjoys historic designation.

In the 1990s, she returned to Kentucky to live on her tobacco farm, where her income comes from the sale of trees harvested from her property. About nine years ago, Venus Ramey wanted to save the tobacco industry from possible extinction and get farmers back on their feet. She filed a lawsuit seeking $300 billion in damages against the Justice Department that accused the government and President Clinton of trying "to destroy a successful, lucrative American industry."

In mid-April, Ramey found three men attempting to steal scrap metal from her property. Curtis Parish, the ringleader, said, "If you get out of my way, we'll leave." She said, "Oh, no -- you won't." She proceeded to shoot out the truck's tires.

"I didn't even think twice. I just went and did it. If they had even dared come close to me, they'd be six feet under by now," she said to The Associated Press. "I am trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble, and all it is, is one thing after another."

A TV journalist questioned Ramey suggesting she should not "be wandering around with a firearm." He said, "What if the intruders have a firearm• Wouldn't it just be safer to call 911?"

Our lady with the gun was having none of that: "That's not good enough," she said. "If I hear one more liberal encouraging us to become victims ... ."

Police say Ramey had every right to fire the gun since she witnessed the men committing a crime on her property.

If only there had been a clone of Venus Ramey at Blacksburg, Va. With her matter-of-fact knowledge of guns, her absolute bravery and her instinct for doing what is right at once, she would have put a stop to the gunman soon after his first volley.

Unimpeded by questions of political correctness and unhampered by concerns of crime scene management, she would have assessed the risk, understood the danger, leveled her walker and taken the gunman in her sights.

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.

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