Roanoke dedicated a downtown plaza to former governor Linwood Holton Monday. While his ties to Roanoke are a source of pride, Holton’s track record of principle got the biggest praise.
Linwood Holton is now 94 years old, but the impact of his term as governor is still felt. In 1969, he was the first Republican elected to the office in a hundred years, breaking the single-party stranglehold on state politics.
Holton preached and practiced a message of equality by supporting school desegregation and appointing more women and minorities to state positions than any previous governor. The moves were not always popular and Roanoke council member Bill Bestpitch noted Holton paid a political price. "We need to remember the kind of courage it took in 1970 to say that the era of defiance is behind us," Bestpitch said as he gave Holton a key to the city.
Holton said he hopes the message of equality and opportunity inspire visitors to the plaza that now bears his name. "They’ll understand we exerted real leadership at a time when it was necessary."
His son-in-law, Senator Tim Kaine, believes Linwood Holton’s example goes well beyond Virginia. "I think we need a lot more people, I challenge myself at this, willing to put principle over party to serve the country."
Holton Plaza is located on Franklin Road between Jefferson Street and Williamson Road.