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 92)
Big Stone Gap, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Virginia Harrison "Jinks" Rogers[1]
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 of Virginia since Reconstruction. He was also the first Republican elected to the office in the history of the Commonwealth.

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, Virginia.

Political career[edit]

Holton was active in the Republican Party when it barely existed in Virginia. He was one of the leading Republicans who fought the Byrd Organization during the three decades it dominated Virginia politics.

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 desegregation was an issue in Virginia, Holton voluntarily placed his children (including future First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton) in the mostly-black 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, provided the first state funds for community mental health centers, and supported environmental efforts.

A moderate Republican, Holton was not against welcoming conservative Byrd Democrats into the Virginia Republican Party, and the increasingly conservative GOP 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 Senate in 1970, Holton insisted on running a Republican candidate rather than endorsing an independent. That eventually led to the nomination of Ray Garland.[2] 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, an election that was won by another independent, populist Henry Howell

In 1973, Mills Godwin, the conservative former Democrat who had defeated Holton in the 1965 election, was the Republican nominee. Godwin had supported massive resistance to racial integration and had first identified himself as a Republican in his speech accepting the Virginia Republican convention's nomination for governor.[3][4] Holton was not eligible to run in 1973, as Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms.

Later life[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).[5] After leaving Washington, he practiced law as a shareholder at McCandlish Holton, P.C. He later served as President of the Center for Innovative Technology.

Holton later unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the US 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 and ultimately endorsed several Democrats for statewide office, including his son-in-law, Governor Tim Kaine. Holton endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential contest.[6]

The Holtons have four children: Tayloe, Anne, Woody, and Dwight. Anne Holton is married to US 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.[7] Abner Linwood Holton III has published three books, including 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 prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2010. Dwight Holton served as acting U.S. Attorney for Oregon from 2010 to 2011.[8][9] He later lost to Ellen Rosenblum in the May 2012 primary in the race for Oregon Attorney General.[10]

In November 2005, Holton 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.


Further reading[edit]

  • Atkinson, Frank B. The Dynamic Dominion: Realignment and the Rise of Virginia's Republican Party Since 1945 (Fairfax, Va., 1992)
  • Eisenberg, Ralph. "Virginia: The Emergence of Two-Party Politics." in The Changing Politics of the South (Baton Rouge, 1972) pp 48+
  • Sweeney, James R. "Southern strategies," Virginia Magazine of History & Biography (1998) 106#2 pp 165–200.

Primary sources[edit]

  • 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