Abner Linwood Holton, Jr., Governor

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Abner Linwood Holton, Jr., Governor's Geni Profile

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Abner Linwood Holton, Jr.

Birthplace: Big Stone Gap, Wise, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Abner Linwood Holton, Sr. and Edith Holton
Husband of Virginia Harrison Holton
Father of <private> Holton and <private> Holton
Brother of <private> Holton; <private> (Holton) and <private> (Holton)

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Immediate Family

About Abner Linwood Holton, Jr., Governor


Abner Linwood Holton, Jr. (born September 21, 1923) was the 61st Governor of Virginia, and the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He was governor from 1970 to 1974. Holton was a member of the mountain-valley Republican Party (GOP) that fought the Byrd Organization and was not in favor of welcoming conservative Democrats into the Virginia Republican Party.

Political career

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, 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 pushed hard to field Republican candidates in all statewide races instead of endorsing conservative alternatives. 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. 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.

The increasingly conservative Republican party turned its back on Holton. 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. Holton was not eligible to run in 1973 anyway, as Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms.

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.

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.

As Governor, he increased employment of blacks and women in state government, created the Virginia Governor's Schools Program in 1979, and provided the first state funds for community mental health centers, and supported environmental efforts.

Following his term as Governor, he currently practices law as a shareholder at McCandlish Holton, P.C., and later served as President of the Center for Innovative Technology

His daughter, Anne Bright 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.) 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.

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.

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Abner Linwood Holton, Jr., Governor's Timeline

September 21, 1923
Big Stone Gap, Wise, Virginia, United States