Former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton dies at 98

Former VA Governor Linwood Holton, who died 10.28.21 at age 98
Former VA Governor Linwood Holton, who died 10.28.21 at age 98(Foster Studio-VA Legislative Photo Gallery)
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 12:47 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/WYMT) - Former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton, Jr. died on Thursday. He was 98 years old.

The Republican served as governor from 1970 to 1974. He was a Navy veteran who graduated from Stanford School of Law and practiced law in Roanoke before entering politics. He was originally from Big Stone Gap in Wise County.

He was Virginia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a crusader against racial discrimination, according to the Associated Press.

Linwood was father-in-law to US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who shared a family statement:

“Our Dad, Linwood Holton, passed away peacefully this morning at the home he shared with our Mom in Kilmarnock, Virginia. He turned 98 last month.

“To the world, Governor Linwood Holton is known as a giant of civil rights and change. When others stood in the doorways of schools to block de-segregation, our Dad walked us (and bused us) to integrated schools to show the rest of the world the way of justice. When others balked at tearing down the barriers to employment and opportunities for all Americans, our Dad led the charge in hiring for the Governor’s office a staff that represented all Virginians. In launching a political party that included Main Street business, labor organizations, and African American organizations including the Crusade for Voters, Dad helped break the back of the political machine that had called the shots in Virginia. Dad was all of that and more in his public life.

“But to us, he was simply a great Dad – a hero who helped us with our math homework, told us funny stories, and showed us the way to live committed to what is right. A Dad who always helped us see that every day is Opportunity Time – the chance to go make right in the world, for our families, our friends, and our communities. A loving, proud granddad to his 10 grandchildren, and a great friend to so many.

“With our mom Jinks, his lifelong partner in all things and wife of 68+ years, Dad touched the lives of so many people.

“We will miss Dad terribly but have been deeply blessed by his life.”

“I mourn the loss of my father-in-law Linwood Holton. He was more than a father-in-law — he was my friend and my public service role model. His courageous efforts to end racial discrimination in Virginia, born out of a deep religious conviction about the equality of all God’s children, made him a moral pillar for so many. Lin and Jinks have been the key inspiration for my wife Anne’s public service career.

“Lin was also a magnificent grandfather. I will always be thankful for his role in my life.”

Governor Ralph Northam issued this statement:

“Linwood Holton changed what it means to serve as Governor of Virginia. He knew defeat at the ballot box before victory—and when he won, he made every moment count.

“If you want to know what American strength looks like, look at the famous photographs of Governor Holton—smiling, as he walked his children to Richmond’s public schools during the tensest moments of desegregation. He faced down Virginia’s demons and enabled this Commonwealth to look ahead.

“He showed a wistful state how to embrace the future, inviting us all to be “touched by the better angels of our nature,” in the words of President Lincoln who founded the reforming Republican Party that Linwood Holton revered.

“A half century has passed since Linwood Holton served as Governor. His public service continued for decades after that, and his children carry on his legacy today, serving in public office, in the academy, and as good and loving souls.

“May we all celebrate the life of Linwood Holton, Virginia’s servant leader. Our country needs more people like him today.

“Pam and I are smiling tonight in memory of this great man who lived nearly a century. Our thoughts tonight are especially with Jinks, Anne, Taylor, Woody, and Dwight, and everyone who loved Governor Holton.”

Congressman Morgan Griffith, whose district serves several counties in Southwest Virginia, including Wise, issued this statement:

“The election of Linwood Holton, a native of Big Stone Gap, as the first Republican Governor of Virginia since Reconstruction was a defining moment for our Commonwealth. Fortunately, Governor Holton’s long life was defined by his decency and character. His legacy of moving Virginia to end segregation and making it a two-party state made him a figure of profound consequence.

“I remember being impressed by him when he appeared in Salem to campaign with President Nixon. I extend my condolences to his family, including Anne Holton and Senator Tim Kaine.”

Gov. Northam has directed Virginia state flags to be flown at half-staff in Gov. Holton’s honor for the next 30 days.