City Officially Opens Holton Plaza to the Public

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea Accompanies Gov. Linwood A. Holton and his wife Virginia “Jinks” Holton.

The City of Roanoke held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 16 to officially open Holton Plaza to the public. Holton Plaza will enhance the pedestrian experience between City Market Square and Elmwood Park. The plaza honors former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton, Jr., and features Dogwood Trees (which are a favorite of Governor Holton), seat walls engraved with his quotes, and a four-sided pedestal at the entrance which features important accomplishments and milestones of his life.

Holton was born Sept. 21, 1923, in Big Stone Gap, Va. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1944 and went on to train as a submariner during WWII. Holton later attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1949 and later settling in Roanoke. He married Roanoke native Virginia Harrison Rogers on Jan. 10. 1953, and they are parents to four children: Tayloe, Anne, Woody, and Dwight.

Holton practiced law in Roanoke, and on Nov. 4, 1969, was elected Governor of Virginia, the first Republican governor in Virginia in 100 years. His tenure as Governor is most known for his actions during the federal-court-ordered desegregation of the Richmond City Schools. In support of the desegregation order, Holton escorted his daughter Tayloe into the formerly all-black John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond.

Other accomplishments as Governor included appointing more African Americans and women to high office in state government than any of his predecessors, reorganizing the executive branch of Virginia government by creating a gubernatorial cabinet, and serving as the chief promoter of the Virginia is for Lovers advertising campaign.

He stayed active long after his term as Governor ended in 1974. Holton served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, chaired the governing council of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and served on the board of Amtrak.

The University of Virginia press published Governor Holton’s memoir in March 2008. Its title, Opportunity Time, is a reference to the wake-up call he gave his children every morning: “It’s opportunity time.”

Holton and his wife are now enjoying retirement.

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