Former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton Jr. dies at age 98

Virginia Politics

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine, left, speaks with former Gov. Linwood Holton, right, as former Gov. Gerald Baliles listens during the 2007 Sorenson Institute Gala event at the Jefferson Hotel, Wednesday, March 21, 2007, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Lisa Billings)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The children of former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton Jr. announced his death on Thursday. He died at his home in Kilmarnock on Thursday morning at 98 years old.

His children, recount Holton’s role in supporting integration. Holton is remembered for calling for the end of Virginia’s segregation policy Massive Resistance.

The release states, “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.”

Holton is Sen. Tim Kaine’s father in-law. Kaine released a statement following his passing.

“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” Kaine said. “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.”

Gov. Ralph Northam also responded to Holton’s death stating, “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,” Northam said.  

Attorney General Mark Herring called Holton a “great Virginian” who dedicated his life to helping others through desegregating schools, diversifying the governor’s office and changing Virginia’s political landscape.

“He truly personified what a public servant should be and transformed what it meant to be a politician in Virginia – into someone who works for the betterment of the people,” Herring said. “Governor Holton’s legacy of progress and inclusion, and his dedication to civil rights can still be felt in every corner of Virginia, and I personally have looked to him as inspiration in the work that I have done during my time in public service.”

House Republic Leader Todd Gilbert gave a statement on the Republican governor as well.

“A giant of Virginia public service has passed, and our Commonwealth mourns the loss of Governor Linwood Holton,” Gilbert said. “Governor Holton was a transformational figure in Virginia politics. More importantly, he was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.”

Congressman Bobby Scott was another politician who released a statement in remembrance of Holton.

“I join the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia in mourning the loss of Governor Linwood Holton. He was a man of faith and principle and he made great strides towards progress and equality in Virginia while he served as Governor,” Scott said. “He was a role model for all Virginians and I send my deep condolences to his daughter Anne and the entire Holton family.”

Virginia state flags will fly at half-staff for thirty days in honor of Holton’s memory.

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