Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Dorothy Eva Rouse Botton (17 July 1896–15 December 1990), civic leader and newspaper publisher, was born in Newport News, the only child of William Elmer Rouse and Edna Sue Hudgins Rouse. She was educated in the local schools and attended Mary Baldwin Seminary (later Mary Baldwin College) for the academic year 1914–1915. On 2 July 1925 she married Raymond Blanton Bottom, an army officer then stationed at Fort Monroe. She lived with her husband at various posts in the United States and in the Philippines until he resigned from the army in December 1930.

They settled in Hampton, and from 1931 to 1953 she led a life typical of the wife of a prominent businessman, civic leader, and newspaper publisher. She was active in various women's clubs and groups and raised one son and two daughters. Raymond Bottom died of a heart attack on 29 October 1953, and Dorothy R. Bottom, with no previous experience in journalism or business, became vice president of the Daily Press, Inc., which owned and published the two daily newspapers in Newport News, the morning Daily Press and the evening Times-Herald. She succeeded Raymond Bottom as editor of the Daily Press and announced that she would make both newspapers more readable and interesting, especially to women. Bottom expanded coverage of women's organizations and society news and at the same time moved into a more prominent role in community affairs, taking her husband's place as a regional booster. She tirelessly promoted tourism at the area's historic sites and also cultivated good relations with the leaders of Hampton Roads' large military installations. The civic project in which Bottom took greatest pride was the erection of a limestone and granite victory arch in 1962 to replace the temporary wooden arch that had been put up in Newport News in 1919 to honor servicemen returning from World War I.

According to some critics the lack of competition from other newspapers combined with Bottom's limited associations with working-class people and minority groups to make the Daily Press and the Times-Herald bland and complacent during the 1960s and 1970s. Members of the Peninsula's African American community once threatened to boycott the papers because they ignored news of importance to black Virginians. Bottom nevertheless attained a prominent role in Virginia journalism comparable to her husband's. In January 1961 she was elected president of the United Press International Virginia Association of Newspapers, and in 1981 she was made a life member of the Virginia Press Association. During Bottom's career as editor she was involved in several unpleasant disputes, one of which went to court, with members of the Van Buren family, the other principal local owners of stock in the Daily Press, Inc.

Bottom retired in February 1981, and her son, Raymond Blanton Bottom Jr., succeeded her as editor of the Daily Press. Both of Bottom's daughters were by then also taking active roles in the company, and the newspapers became more lively and broadened their coverages of the local African American population. In 1986 the Bottoms and the Van Burens sold the Daily Press, Inc., whose newspapers had a combined daily circulation of more than 100,000, to Tribune Co., Inc., a national syndicate. The sale included broadcasting and other associated investments and totaled more than $200 million.

In 1989 Bottom established the Rouse-Bottom Foundation to support cultural, historical, environmental, and educational activities in Virginia, particularly in the Hampton Roads area. Dorothy Eva Rouse Bottom suffered a stroke in 1989 and died in a Hampton nursing home on 15 December 1990. She was buried in the local Greenlawn Cemetery.

Sources Consulted:
Birth Register, Newport News, Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS), Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia (LVA); middle name from Mary Baldwin Seminary Catalogue (1914/1915), 87; BVS Marriage Register, Newport News; Newport News Times-Herald, 2 July 1925; extensive clipping files on Bottom, her family, the Van Buren family, and the history of the two newspapers in library of Daily Press, Inc., Newport News; feature articles in Commonwealth 25 (Aug. 1958): 23–24, 31 (portrait), in Newport News Daily Press, 1 Feb. 1981, 9 Mar., 15 July, 30 Sept. 1986, in Newport News Times-Herald, 2 Feb. 1981, and in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9 Feb. 1986; obituaries in Newport News Daily Press, 16 Dec. 1990 (portraits), and Richmond Times-Dispatch, 17 Dec. 1990 (which gives variant birth date of 17 May 1896).

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Brent Tarter.

How to cite this page:
Brent Tarter,"Dorothy Eva Rouse Botton (1896–1990)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2001 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Bottom_Dorothy_Rouse, accessed [today's date]).

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