Former Governor Linwood Holton – a native of Southwest Virginia – was a giant when it came to civil rights, education and the environment, according to Virginia Tech historian Peter Wallenstein. The 98-year old Holton passed away Thursday.

Wallenstein offered these perspectives on the trail blazing Republican:

“Linwood Holton was a fabulous human being and an outstanding governor who lived an amazing life.”

“The first Republican governor of the twentieth century, he successfully provided a stark contrast to the dominant Byrd Organization and its record of Massive Resistance to school desegregation.” 

“His was a brave and prescient performance across a wide swath of issues from race to gender to education and the environment.”  

“Related to Virginia Tech, in his first year in office Holton appointed James Leslie Whitehurst Jr. as the first African American on the Board of Visitors. Whitehurst, a VPI graduate, had broken through multiple barriers as a Black student and, because of Governor Holton‘s unprecedented action, suddenly he broke another barrier and was helping make policy for the school.”

Peter Wallenstein is a professor of history at Virginia Tech, with expertise in the civil rights struggle in Virginia, the U.S. South, and race, law and higher education.

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To schedule an interview with Peter Wallenstein, contact Bill Foy in the Virginia Tech Media Relations office at 540-998-0288.

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