A. Linwood Holton, Jr.

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A. Linwood Holton, Jr.
Linwood Holton (1971 Bugle).png
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
In office
February 28, 1974 – January 31, 1975
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded by Marshall Wright
Succeeded by Robert J. McCloskey
61st Governor of Virginia
In office
January 17, 1970 – January 12, 1974
Lieutenant Sargeant Reynolds
Henry Howell
Preceded by Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Succeeded by Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Personal details
Born Abner Linwood Holton, Jr.
(1923-09-21) September 21, 1923 (age 91)
Big Stone Gap, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Children Anne
Alma mater Washington and Lee University
Harvard University

Abner Linwood Holton, Jr. (born September 21, 1923) is a Virginia political figure and attorney. He served as the 61st Governor of Virginia, from 1970 to 1974. He was the first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Early life[edit]

Born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, Holton is a 1944 graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He is a 1949 graduate of Harvard Law School. Prior to entering politics, he was an attorney in Roanoke.

Political career[edit]

Holton was the Republican candidate for governor in 1965 but was defeated by Democrat Mills E. Godwin, Jr.. In 1969 Holton won the gubernatorial election, winning 52.51% of the vote and defeating Democrat William C. Battle, Virginia Conservative Beverly B. McDowell, American Independent William A. Pennington, and Independent George R. Walker becoming the first Republican governor of Virginia since 1869, a span of 100 years.

In 1970, when forced busing was an issue in Virginia, Holton voluntarily placed his children (including future First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton) in the mostly African-American Richmond public schools, garnering much publicity.

As Governor, he increased employment of blacks and women in state government, created the Virginia Governor's Schools Program in 1973, and provided the first state funds for community mental health centers, and supported environmental efforts.

A moderate Republican, Holton was not in favor of welcoming conservative Democrats into the Virginia Republican Party, and the increasingly conservative Republican party turned its back on Holton. When Harry F. Byrd, Jr. broke ranks with the increasingly liberal Virginia Democratic party and ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate in 1970, Holton insisted on running a Republican candidate rather than endorsing an independent. This eventually led to the nomination of Ray Garland.[1] Byrd went on to win the three-way election with an absolute majority. Holton also encouraged a moderate Republican to run in the special election in 1971 to choose a successor for deceased Lieutenant Governor J. Sargeant Reynolds — another election which was won by an independent, this time populist Henry Howell.

In 1973, Mills E. Godwin, Jr., the conservative former Democrat who had defeated Holton in the 1965 election, was the Republican nominee. Godwin had supported Massive Resistance to integration and had first identified himself as a Republican in his speech accepting the Virginia Republican convention's nomination for governor.[2][3] Holton was not eligible to run in 1973 anyway, as Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms.

Post Governor[edit]

Following his term as Governor, Holton served one year in the Nixon Administration as the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (the position was later renamed as the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs).[4] After leaving Washington, he practiced law as a shareholder at McCandlish Holton, P.C., and later served as President of the Center for Innovative Technology.

Holton later unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1978, finishing third in a race against Richard D. Obenshain, John Warner, and Nathan H. Miller. Warner would later become the nominee after Obenshain's death in a plane crash.

After his retirement, Holton had supported moderate Republicans, including John Warner. As the Virginia Republican Party became more conservative, however, he found himself more in line with the state Democratic Party, ultimately endorsing several Democrats for statewide office, including his son-in-law, Governor Tim Kaine. Holton endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential contest.[5]

His daughter, Anne Holton, is married to U.S. Senator and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. She was the first First Lady of Virginia to live in Virginia's Executive Mansion both as a child and as a First Lady. (Thomas Jefferson's daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, known as "Patsy", was married to Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., but never lived in the Mansion.) In January 2014, Anne Holton was named Virginia Secretary of Education.[6] One son, Abner Linwood "Woody" Holton, III, has published three award-winning books, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (1999). His third book, a biography of Abigail Adams, won the presigious Bancroft Prize in 2010. Another son, Dwight Holton, served as acting U.S. Attorney for Oregon from 2010 to 2011.[7][8] Dwight Holton later lost to Ellen Rosenblum in the May 2012 primary in the race for Oregon Attorney General.[9] The Holtons also have a fourth child, a daughter, Tayloe.[10]

In November 2005, he underwent surgery to treat bladder cancer. The University of Virginia Press published his memoirs, entitled Opportunity Time, in March 2008. He has been a long-time member of the Governing Council of the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.

In 1999, Linwood Holton Elementary School, in Richmond, Virginia was named in his honor.


  1. ^ Frank B. Atkinson, The Dynamic Dominion, pp. 240-250.
  2. ^ Apple, Jr., R. W. (1989-09-25). "Though Racial Politics Lurks, It Is Muted in Virginia Contest". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  3. ^ Rich, Frank (2008-02-17). "The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  4. ^ "Archive:Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs". United States Department of State. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Craig, Tim (2008-09-13). "Linwood Holton to Campaign for Obama". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  6. ^ Daudani, Ray (3 January 2014). "Former First Lady Anne Holton named VA Secretary of Education". nbc12.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "WEDDINGS; Mary Ellen Glynn, Dwight Holton". New York Times. 2000-09-24. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  8. ^ "Dwight Holton named interim U.S. attorney for Oregon". The Oregonian. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  9. ^ Manning, Jeff (16 May 2012). "Ellen Rosenblum defeats Dwight Holton for attorney general (2012 primary election)". oregonlive.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "School Busing". vahistorical.org. Virginia Historical Society. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  • A. Linwood Holton Jr., Opportunity Time: A Memoir by Governor Linwood Holton. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8139-2720-6

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Preceded by
Marshall Wright
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
Succeeded by
Robert J. McCloskey