A. Linwood Holton, Jr.

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Abner Linwood Holton, Jr.

In office
January 17, 1970 – January 12, 1974
Preceded by Mills E. Godwin, Jr. (Democrat)
Succeeded by Mills E. Godwin, Jr. (Republican)

United States 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

Born September 21, 1923
Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Died October 28, 2021 (aged 98)
Kilmarnock in Lancaster and
Northumberland counties, Virginia
Political party Moderate Republican
Spouse(s) Virginia "Jinks" Rogers Holton
(married 1953)[1]
Children Virginia Taylor "Tayloe" Holton Loftus

Anne Holton Kaine
A. Linwood "Woody" Holton, III
Dwight Holton
A. Linwood, Sr., and Edith Van Gorder Holton

Alma mater Washington and Lee University
(Bachelor of Arts)
Harvard University
(Bachelor of Laws)

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1969
Rank Captain
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War

Abner Linwood Holton, Jr., known as A. Linwood Holton or Lin Holton (September 21, 1923 – October 28, 2021), was the first Republican in the 20th century to serve as Governor of his native Virginia. He was the 61st governor with service for a single term from 1970 to 1974, sandwich in between the two nonconsecutive terms of Democrat-turned Republican Mills E. Godwin, Jr.[2]

His son-in-law, Tim Kaine, was the governor from 2006 to 2010 and since a sitting United States Senator. In 2016, Kaine was the unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton., who lost in an upset to insurgent Republican Donald Trump.


A native of Big Stone Gap, a small town in Wise County in southwestern Virginia, Holton was a son of A. Linwood Holton, Sr. (1879-1968), an executive of a coal-hauling railroad who died a year before his son's election as governor. [3] Holton's mother, his father's second wife, was Edith Van Gorder (1897-1984). The couple is interred at Glencoe Cemetery in Big Stone Gap. Holton's younger brother was Charles Van Gorder Holton (1925-1977).[4]

In 1941, Holton enrolled at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. After the attack by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Holton enlisted seven months later in the United States Navy. Upon his graduation, he received a commission and was assigned to submarine duty throughout World War II and in the reserves for more than two decades afterwards. In 1949, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He practiced law in Roanoke, Virginia.[5]

In 1953, Holton married the former Virginia “Jinks” Rogers, the daughter of a leading Democrat in Roanoke.[6] Together, they had four children, Anne Kaine, Virginia Taylor "Tayloe" Loftus, A. Linwood "Woody" Holton, III, and Dwight Holton.[3]

Political career

Holton was active in the early years of the revival of the Virginia Republican Party. He opposed the Democratic political organization established by Harry Flood Byrd, Sr., which dominated the state for three decades and opposed civil rights legislation, which Holton championed.

In 1965, Holton was the Republican gubernatorial nominee but was defeated by the then Democrat Mills E. Godwin, Jr. Four years later, Holton with 52.51 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial election defeating Democrat William Cullen "Bill" Battle (1920-2008), son of former Governor John S. Battle (1890-1972), and the conservative Beverly Blair McDowell (male) (1930-2008) of Richmond[7] as well as two other Independent candidates.

In 1970, Holton enrolled his children in the predominantly African-American school system in the capital city of Richmond, a move which attracted national attention. Governor Holton worked to boost the employment of blacks and women in state government, provided the first state funds for community mental health centers, and supported environmental endeavors.

As a Moderate Republican, Holton did not welcome the conservative Byrd Democrats into the state GOP, which moved increasingly rightward. Harry F. Byrd, Jr. left the Democrats and ran successfully in 1970 as an Independent for the United States Senate. Holton opposed Byrd, Jr., and fielded instead a Republican candidate, Ray Lucian Garland (born 1934), to seek the seat. Garland served in both houses of the state legislature and resided in Roanoke.[8] Byrd went on to win the three-way election with an absolute majority.

Holton was ineligible to run in 1973, as Virginia is still the only state that does not permit governors to serve consecutive terms. In 1973, Mills Godwin, the conservative former Democrat who had defeated Holton in the 1965 election, was the Republican nominee. Earlier Godwin as part of the Byrd organization had supported "massive resistance" to racial integration and had first identified himself as a Republican in 1973 in his speech accepting the Virginia Republican convention's nomination for governor.[9]

Holton ended the state's "massive resistance" to desegregation and called upon the GOP to renounce its “segregationist appeal to Southerners.”[5]

Later years

After his governorship, Holton served for a year in the administration of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, who had campaigned for Holton in the 1965 race against Godwin. Holton was the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, later named the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs]}[10]

In 1978, Holton unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. After the chosen nominee, Richard Dudley Obenshain (1935-1978), was killed in an airplane crash, John Warner became the nominee. Originally a conservative, Warner, one of the former husbands of actress Elizabeth Taylor, in time became one of the most vocal of the Moderate to Liberal Republicans in Washington, D.C..

As the Virginia Republican Party turned more conservative, Holton endorsed various Democrats for statewide office, including his son-in-law, Tim Kaine, and the later President Barack Hussein Obama.[11]

The Holtons have four children: Virginia Taylor "Tayloe" Holton Loftus, Anne Holton Kaine, A. Linwood "Woody" Holton, III, and Dwight Holton. Anne Kaine was the first Virginia First Lady to live in the Executive Mansion as a child and later as a governor's wife. In January 2014, Mrs. Kaine was named the Virginia Secretary of Education.[12]

In November 2005, Holton underwent surgery for bladder cancer. The University of Virginia Press published his memoir, Opportunity Time, in March 2008. He has been a long-time member of the Governing Council of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

In 1999, Linwood Holton Elementary School in Richmond, was named in his honor. In 2017, the City of Roanoke hosted Holton for the dedication in his honor of a plaza in the city where had practiced law.[13]

Holton died at the age of ninety-eight less than a week before another Virginia gubernatorial race, this one pitting Republican Glenn Youngkin against the Democrat former Governor Terry McAuliffe. On the day Holton died, new polls showed Youngkin with a real chance to win the governorship.


  1. Linwood Holton. National Governors Association. Retrieved on July 27, 2016.
  2. Andrew Cain (October 6, 2016). Five Virginia first ladies tout Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine at Black History Museum. The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved on October 12, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 James H. Hershman, Jr. (March 24, 2014). A. Linwood Holton (1923– ). Encyclopedia of Virginia (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities). Retrieved on October 5, 2016.
  4. Edith Van Gorder Holton (1897-1984) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed October 8, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sarah Rankin (AP). Linwood Holton Jr, 1st GOP Virginia governor of 20th century, dies. Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on October 29, 2021.
  6. Holton, A. Linwood (1923– ). Virginia Humanities.
  7. Beverly Blair McDowell (1930-2008) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed October 8, 2021.
  8. Frank B. Atkinson (2006). The Dynamic Dominion, 240–250. ISBN 9780742552098. 
  9. R. W. "Johnny" Apple, Jr. (1934-2006) (September 25, 1989). Though Racial Politics Lurks, It Is Muted in Virginia Contest. The New York Times. Retrieved on February 17, 2008.
  10. Archive: Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. United States Department of State. Retrieved on January 1, 2014.
  11. Tim Craig (September 13, 2008). Linwood Holton to Campaign for Obama. The Washington Post. Retrieved on September 16, 2008.
  12. Ray Daudani (January 3, 2014). Former First Lady Anne Holton named VA Secretary of Education. nbc12.com. Retrieved on January 13, 2014.
  13. Matt Chittum (October 17, 2017). Downtown plaza dedicated for Linwood Holton, history-making former governor and one-time Roanoker. The Roanoke Times. Retrieved on October 8, 2021.