One man’s editorial 140 pages and 80,000 words resulted in a book – and many in the community will recognize the author’s name. A long-time contributor to The Winchester Star’s editorial page has independently published a collection of opinion pieces published in the paper.
Years ago, 77-year-old Leroy F. Donald of Stephens City began collating opinion pieces with a book in mind. On September 8, the 348-page “Political Upheaval: Essays on Freedom in America” was published.
“This book expresses my views on the political process, dissenting political views, the defense of individual liberties, respect for constitutional politics, small government, and lowering taxes,” reads a description.
Available on amazon.com, “Political Upheaval” is listed under historical essays in its gender specifics. The cover of the book presents the US Constitution in the form of a rolled up scroll. Inside, the book is filled with Donald’s sprawling meditations on his major subject: the American political landscape.
Donald, a Navy veteran, began writing and submitting opinion pieces to The Star in 2002, driven by current affairs and a preference for free speech. He had a long career with the Norfolk Southern Railway after his military service, where he served as an officer in a series of cities including Atlanta, Chattanooga and New Orleans.
“I traveled a lot when I was overseas on a nuclear submarine. I served on the USS Andrew Jackson,” Donald said.
Donald’s period of retirement and subsequent return to the Winchester area, the city where he was born in 1945, coincided with his writing session. It was a response to the Bush-Gore election published on the Star’s editorial page that sparked 20 years of opinion pieces.
“I knew I had had enough and decided to write,” Donald said. “I started writing a lot about political discourse after I retired.”
He hadn’t practiced essay writing until 2002, but Donald belongs to a generation of letter writers: he was an avid letter writer while in the military and throughout his railroad career.
Tons of work came. When the newspaper’s open forum stalwart realized he’d hit the 75,000-80,000 word mark, he started thinking about book titles.
Opinion pieces recently submitted to The Star by Donald include musings on the Jan. 6 uprising on the U.S. Capitol and the response it elicited from lawmakers and former President Donald Trump’s attempts to quash the 2022 presidential election results. Donald has rarely been brought in to write about the state of local politics. As he put it, “I would say 95% of what’s in it is domestic”, referring to “political upheaval”.
Looking back on his comments, Donald said his views haven’t changed much in 20 years. He was around 55 when he first submitted a piece to The Star, an age when political beliefs are usually quite set in stone.
But his approach has changed slightly over time. “I feel like I’m not being as harshly critical as I used to be,” Donald said. “At least I hope not. Now I don’t call anyone directly.”
That his contributions are read with relish by some and challenged by others is undisputed. Donald claims he was never outwardly polemical when writing or responding to the opinions of others. And he doesn’t mince words about partisan affiliation: “Obviously, I’m a conservative,” he said.
“I think I had kind of a small following at one point,” Donald said. “If there’s been a time lapse for articles, people ask me when I’m going to put out another one. I see the comments, but I can’t respond to a lot of them. I keep writing .”
The prolific opinion writer said he started categorizing and saving his writings so people would know how he felt about things after he left.
Always one for feverish production, he has written eight plays since the book’s publication.
His book is available in paperback at amazon.com for $11.99 or $2.99 for a Kindle version.