Civil rights

Former GOP civil rights champion Virginia governor Linwood Holton dies at 98

  • Former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton, a Republican civil rights champion, has died aged 98.
  • Holton, who served from 1970 to 1974, was the first GOP governor elected in the 20th century.
  • A 1970 photo of Holton accompanying one of his daughters to his predominantly black public high school made national news.

Former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton, a moderate Republican who championed civil rights and broke the former Southern Democrat’s segregationist regime’s stranglehold in state politics, died Thursday morning, his family said . He was 98 years old.

Holton, originally from Big Stone Gap, a small town in the coal country of Virginia, became the first Republican Governor of the Commonwealth of the 20th century, from 1970 to 1974. He was elected on a platform for reform that sought to push forward Virginia on Race Relations. , pushing an end to massive resistance, the state’s attempt to block integration among its white and black residents.

In 1970, the image of Holton walking with his daughter, Tayloe, as she began her first day of high school at a predominantly Black high school in Richmond, became one of the defining symbols of the effort to promote the court-ordered bus transport in this was once the capital of the Confederation.

“To the world, Governor Linwood Holton is known as a giant of civil rights and change. When others stood outside schools to block desegregation, our father accompanied us – and took us by bus. – towards integrated schools to show the rest of the world the way to righteousness, ”the four children of Holton said in a written statement. “When others balked at breaking down barriers to employment and opportunity for all Americans, our father led the charge by hiring staff for the governor’s office who represented all Virginians.”

Linwood Holton

Former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton on November 6, 2012.

AP Photo / Steve Helber, File


One of Holton’s daughters, Anne, is a former Richmond District Juvenile and Family Relations judge married to Senator Tim Kaine, himself a former governor of Virginia, a 2016 Democratic running mate and running mate of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. .

In a statement, Kaine rented Holton’s character and his lasting legacy across Virginia.

“I mourn the loss of my stepfather Linwood Holton,” the senator said. “He was my friend and a model of public service. His courageous efforts to end racial discrimination in Virginia – born out of a deep religious belief in the equality of all children of God – made him a moral pillar. for so many people. “

With his successful 1969 gubernatorial campaign, Holton helped dismantle the segregationist Byrd organization, which was the Democratic political machine that controlled state politics for decades.

During his tenure, he was successful in pushing the Democratic-controlled legislature to increase income tax and gasoline tax, allocating funds to environmental protection and transportation projects in the Growing southern state.

However, in a 1999 article published by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, Holton called his efforts to promote civil rights “the greatest source of satisfaction and pride for me.”

“It is well known that in my [gubernatorial] Inaugural speech, I announced to the world that “the era of mistrust is behind us,” he said of his campaign for racial equality. abilities, regardless of race, color or creed. ‘”

Holton is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jinks, and their four children and 10 grandchildren.



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