RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Linwood Holton, Virginia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, died Thursday, his family said in a statement. He was 98.
Holton died peacefully Thursday morning at his home in Kilmarnock, Virginia, according to the statement from his children. It was shared by the office of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Holton's son-in-law.
The statement did not specify the cause of death.
Holton, who served from 1970 to 1974, was a moderate who raised taxes and worked to end racial discrimination. He eventually fell out of favor with the increasingly conservative GOP, which he criticized as obsessed with cutting taxes at the expense of crucial services.
“I’ll bet not three of 10 people in this room could tell you what tax I increased, but they all appreciate the swimmable rivers throughout Virginia which my 1 percent increase in the state income tax paid for,” Holton said at a 1999 conference surveying his administration.
Holton became the state’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction when he defeated Democrat William C. Battle. He enrolled his children in predominantly Black schools rather than fight school busing and alienated Democrats who controlled the General Assembly when he insisted on a GOP opponent in 1970 for U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr.’s bid for re-election as an independent.
By the time his term was over, Holton had lost his party’s support. His choice as state GOP chairman lost to Richard D. Obenshain, a Richmond attorney who was the candidate of GOP conservatives.
Although he never officially left the GOP, the former governor increasingly sided with Democrats. In 2001, he actively backed a successful campaign for lieutenant governor by Kaine and later campaigned for Kaine in his successful bid for governor.
“I mourn the loss of my father-in-law Linwood Holton," Kaine said in a statement. “He was more than a father-in-law — he was my friend and my public service role model. His courageous efforts to end racial discrimination in Virginia, born out of a deep religious conviction about the equality of all God’s children, made him a moral pillar for so many.”
The Associated Press