John N. Dalton

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John Nichols Dalton

In office
January 14, 1978 – January 16, 1982
Preceded by Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Succeeded by Charles Spittal "Chuck" Robb

32nd Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
In office
January 12, 1974 – January 14, 1978
Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr.
Preceded by Henry E. Howell, Jr.
Succeeded by Madison Marye

Virginia State Senator
for the 37th district
In office
January 10, 1973 – December 4, 1973
Preceded by James Clinton Turk

Virginia State Representative
for the 6th district
In office
January 12, 1966 – January 10, 1973
Preceded by Kenneth I. Devore
Succeeded by Ward Teel

Born July 11, 1931
Emporia, Greensville County, Virginia

Reared in Radford, Virginia

Died July 30, 1986 (aged 55)
Richmond, Virginia
Resting place Sunrise Burial Park in Fairlawn in Pulaski County, Virginia
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Edwina Panzer "Eddy" Dalton

(later Edwina Phillips)

Children Four children
Alma mater College of William and Mary

Military Service
Years of service 1954–1956
Rank First lieutenant

John Nichols Dalton (July 11, 1931 – July 30, 1986) was from 1978 to 1982 the 63rd Governor of his native Virginia. Preceding his governorship, he was the first Republican elected as Virginia lieutenant governor in the 20th century.

He was also the third consecutive Republican governor of his state at a time when elections in Virginia were competitive. With 55.9 percent of the vote, Dalton defeated the Democrat nominee, former Lieutenant Governor Henry E. Howell, Jr. (1920-1997), and the Independent candidate, Alan R. Ogden.[1][2]


Dalton was born as John Clay Nichols in Emporia in Greensville County in southern Virginia to Jessie Snow Turner Nichols and her first husband, Luther Clay Nichols, a baker. The parents divorced when Dalton was young and was adopted by his uncle,Theodore Roosevelt "Ted" Dalton, a former state senator and later federal judge who carried the Republican gubernatorial banner in the elections of 1953 and 1957. "Ted" Dalton has been called the "Mr. Republican" of Virginia. John Dalton's adopted mother was Mary Lou Turner Dalton (1907-1988), a native of Boonville, Missouri.[3]

He adjusted his name to John Nichols Dalton. As a boy, his next-door neighbor in Radford was Charlotte Milton Caldwell "Pinky" Giesen (1907-1995), the first Republican woman ever elected to the Radford City Council and the Virginia House of Delegates.[4]


After graduation from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, he obtained a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Virginia Law School in Charlottesville. He was a first lieutenant in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956. Prior to his election as lieutenant governor, he served in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, in the state House from 1966 to 1972 and the state Senate in 1973.[5]

As governor, he pursued policies of limited government, economical management of the state bureaucracy, and a reduction in the number of state employees. Dalton settled a legal dispute, which his predecessor, Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr., had pursued over desegregation of higher education in Virginia. In 1980, Dalton proposed an increase of four cents per gallon in the state gasoline tax in order to provide money for highway construction; the state assembly approved only half of the request. He also supported creating a law school at George Mason University and a new school of veterinary medicine at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. When coal miners went on strike in southwestern Virginia, with some violence, he placed the Virginia National Guard on alert and sent in state troopers. His opponents called the response as anti-union. He also conducted trade trips abroad to bring new plants to the state.[6][7]

In 1981, Governor Dalton approved the first single-member districting plan for the state legislature. Republican candidates found it easier to win election in single-member districts than they had in the large multimember districts that Democrats had long dominated. During the ensuing years Republican membership increased in both houses of the assembly.[7]

Dalton's papers are held at his alma mater, the College of William and Mary. [8] Named in his honor is the Dalton Intermediate School in Radford in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg metropolitan area. Dalton Hall, a building at Radford University that houses dining facilities, and the university bookstore is named for the former governor.

Dalton though he was no smoker died of lung cancer a few days after his 55th birthday. He is interred at Sunrise Burial Park in Radford, Virginia.[5] His son-in-law, Richmond attorney Stephen E. "Steve" Baril (born 1955), sought the 2005 Republican nomination for state attorney general but was defeated by Robert McDonnell, who four years later became the last Republican to be elected as Virginia governor.[9]

His widow, who after his death wed John Burwell Phillips (born 1930), was elected to the state Senate for Henrico County in 1987) and two years later was the unsuccessful Republican Party nominee for lieutenant governor in 1989.[7]


  1. Our Campaigns - Candidate - Alan R. Ogden, accessed October 13, 2021.
  2. Edward Grimsley, "Death of John N. Dalton, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 31, 1986.
  3. Mary Lou Turner Dalton (1907-1988) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed October 12, 2021.
  4. `PINKY' GIESEN (, accessed October 13, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 John Nichols Dalton (1931-1986) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed October 13, 2021.
  6. The Dynamic Dominion: Realignment and the Rise of Two-Party Competition in Virginia, 1945–1980. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (July 21, 2006).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 John Nichols Dalton. Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Retrieved on October 13, 2021.
  8. John Dalton Papers. Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William & Mary. Retrieved on February 1, 2011.
  9. Stephen E. Baril - Kaplan, Voekler, Cunningham & Frank (, accessed October 13, 2021.