(CNN)Former Republican Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr., an anti-segregationist and the state’s first GOP governor to be elected post-Reconstruction, has died, according to a tweet from his son-in-law Sen. Tim Kaine. He was 98.
“I mourn the loss of my father-in-law Linwood Holton. He was my friend and public service role model. His courageous efforts to end racial discrimination in Virginia—born out of deep religious conviction about the equality of all God’s children—made him a moral pillar for so many,” Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, tweeted.Holton, who served from 1970 to 1974, declared an end to the “massive resistance” policy to integration. He supported controversial busing laws and Anne Holton, married to Kaine, recalled years later what it was like when her father enrolled his children at traditionally Black schools in Richmond.”As children of the governor, we could have easily continued attending our all-White schools in the West End,” she said. “Instead, we decided as a family to put our dad’s words into action.”Holton’s children remembered him in a statement on Thursday as “simply a great Dad.”Read More”To the world, Governor Linwood Holton is known as a giant of civil rights and change. When others stood in the doorways of schools to block de-segregation, our Dad walked us (and bused us) to integrated schools to show the rest of the world the way of justice,” the statement said, continuing later: “But to us he was simply a great Dad — a hero who helped us with our math homework, told us funny stories, and showed us the way to live committed to what is right.”Holton, born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, attended Washington and Lee University and Harvard Law School, according to his National Governors Association bio. During World War II, he served with the Submarine Force and was a captain with the US Naval Reserve. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, remembered Holton as a “servant leader.””Linwood Holton changed what it means to serve as Governor of Virginia. He knew defeat at the ballot box before victory—and when he won, he made every moment count,” Northam said in a statement. “If you want to know what American strength looks like, look at the famous photographs of Governor Holton—smiling, as he walked his children to Richmond’s public schools during the tensest moments of desegregation. He faced down Virginia’s demons and enabled this Commonwealth to look ahead.”This story was updated with additional details Thursday.