Civic activist, ‘Angel of Manassas’ dead at 80

Eighty-year-old civic activist Elizabeth Annie Delp Snyder, best known for her battles to preserve rural and historic land in Prince William County — often against overwhelming odds and influential builders — died on Friday at Prince William Hospital.

A resident of Gainesville for 53 years, Snyder was known as a pioneering and lifelong member of the Prince William Republican Party and was a leader in fighting for racial equality and improved schools before these issues became popular, according to those who knew her well.

But Snyder’s notoriety grew for her ongoing battles to save Manassas National Battlefield Park from encroachments. In her efforts to preserve historical sites, she picked up the nickname “Stonewall Annie, the Angel of Manassas.”

Snyder’s efforts to preserve the historic battlefield began in the early 1950s when she persuaded state highway officials to alter the planned Interstate 66 route.

After that she was at the forefront for opposing the coming of such projects near the battlefield of the Marriott Corporation’s Great America Theme Park in 1973; the Hazel/Peterson mega-mall in 1988; and the proposed Walt Disney America Theme Park.

“Annie was a very influential person and when she made her mind up to support or oppose something, she gave it her full attention and went all the way through with it. She had the resources to call on people in high places who could help her cause,” said Haymarket Mayor Jack Kapp.

Snyder was the driving force behind the Save the Battlefield Coalition, founded to keep development away from the park. Pneumonia took her life Friday, although Snyder suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, said her daughter, Page Snyder.

“We children were very proud of our mother, both as a parent and patriot. She inspired great devotion for her children. We admire her courage of conviction for her fight for civil rights, better education and for her efforts to save historic landmarks,” Page Snyder said.

Claude “Brad’ Bradshaw, a supporter of Snyder’s efforts to preserve the battlefield since 1977, said, “She was a fabulous person and I think she made an enormous contribution to the county, to the state and to the nation. No one of her caliber before or since was able to bring so many different groups together to fight for a common cause.”

“She was extremely skilled in communicating with people and was able to take on a project and always come out a winner. I’m going to suggest that the new Prince William County Park Authority’s recreation park in Catharpin be named for her because she was always leading the challenge for open spaces,” Bradshaw said.

Prince William County Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville, said anyone who knew Annie, knew the battlefield was her passion.

“You had to respect her tenacity and perseverance on any issue that related to the battlefield. And while I sometimes differed with her on projects, I respected her sincerity to the issue. She will be truly missed in the community for the spirit she brought to what she stood for,” Wilbourn said.

Manassas businessman R.B. Thomas recalls that he first met Snyder in 1966 when he was the assistant resident engineer for the county.

“Annie was protesting the height of a sign a Shell station wanted to put on its property at the intersection of Interstate 66 and Balls Ford Road.”

Pete Snyder, Annie’s husband of 57 years, said his wife “was an activist, was a hero to many and hated by others.”

“Few were middle ground and she loved to be in a middle of a controversy. She had a very fulfilling life,” Pete Snyder said. Snyder, who enjoyed downhill ski racing well into her 70s, lived at Pageland Farm in Gainesville with her family.

The Snyder family will receive friends at an informal memorial Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lee Funeral Home, 8521 Sudley Road, in Manassas. Interment will be private.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.

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