How the Site of the Vice Presidential Debate Was Picked

PHOTO: Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election. PlayCourtesy of Longwood University
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If the only Farmville you've ever heard of is the Facebook game, you're not alone.

Many members of the political masses and traveling press will be looking up directions to Farmville, Virginia, home of Longwood University, the site for this year's vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.

Longwood University, which was founded in 1839, has never hosted a presidential or vice presidential debate before. The school's president, W. Taylor Reveley IV, said the decision to apply stemmed from a student's suggestion in 2014.

The students "got to talking about how the modern presidential debates have a strong connection to Virginia," he said.

The University of Richmond, more than 60 miles northeast of Farmville, hosted the first town-hall-style presidential debate, between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

PHOTO: Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election. Courtesy of Longwood University
Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election.

"As happens sometimes in class, organically, people got to talking about whether it was something we would ever do at Longwood," he said.

Reveley said the idea "really stuck," and he worked out the logistics for hosting such a prestigious event.

Moreover, "there's a narrative arc in Farmville and at Longwood that's especially relevant to the 2016 election," he said.

"The Civil War functionally drew to a close along the north end of our campus, and then the civil rights movement really took its first powerful strides at the south end of our campus, with a student-led strike at the then-all-black high school," he added.

Longwood is about 30 miles from the Appomattox Court House, the site of one of the final battles before Gen. Lee's Confederate Army surrendered to the Union Army in the spring of 1865.

The courthouse is not the only historical monument in town. A sit-in in 1951 at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville led to the legal fight over "separate but equal" facilities that culminated in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

PHOTO: Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election. Courtesy Longwood University
Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election.

Peter Eyre, a senior adviser with the Commission on Presidential Debates, said that the history and appreciation for politics at Longwood likely played a role in its selection, along with other factors.

"It would be typical for each school to have something that they really feature as a compelling reason to do a debate there besides the facilities," he told ABC News.

"For each of the sites, we look at a variety of things — the facilities, the supporting cast of characters, local police, law enforcement, hotels, transportation. But there is certainly an element that we look at that is much less tangible," he said.

PHOTO: Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election. Courtesy of Longwood University
Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, was picked to host the vice presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election.

Justin Pope, the chief of staff at Longwood University, said that in addition to reviewing the application, the commission "kicks the tires — they make a number of visits to campus and see if they think you could handle it logistically."

All told, the process took about two years, "so I do have some empathy with the campaigns," Reveley said.

The university learned about the decision last September. Reveley said he got a call from Mike McCurry, formerly a press secretary for President Bill Clinton and now a co-chairman of the debate commission.

"He has a good sense of humor, so when he got me on the phone, without any preamble, he said, 'Are you busy Oct. 4?' and I said, I sure hope so,'" Reveley said.