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Conference to review Holton's governorship

Former Virginia Governors Linwood Holton and Gerald L. Baliles will meet at the University tomorrow and Saturday with journalists, Virginia government members and political analysts at the A. Linwood Holton Governors Conference to discuss and review the historical significance of Holton's political career.

The Center for Governmental Studies and the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service are sponsoring the conference.

"Gov. Holton is the first Republican chief executive elected in Virginia this century, and he had a notable term," said Larry J. Sabato, Center founder and government and foreign affairs professor. "Besides an emphasis on the environment and governmental reorganization, Holton was Virginia's first 'New South' governor who stressed the need for better race relations-not just in rhetoric but also in action, sending his children to nearby heavily African-American public schools in Richmond."

Starting last year, the Center holds an annual conference reviewing a former Virginia governor's term, Center program director Alex Theodoridis said.

Holton was chosen as the subject for this year's conference because chronologically he follows Mills Godwin, now deceased, the governor featured at last year's conference, Theodoridis said.

Holton also had a very "tremendous significance as governor in Virginia's history-he is the first Republican governor elected this century and since Reconstruction," he said.

The "goal of the conference is to analyze modern governorships" as well as "analyze the past with a goal towards applying it to the present and the future," he added.

Holton "went a long way towards changing Virginia politics and easing race relations and in addition he instituted the cabinet for the first time," Theodoridis said. "He also left the governorship with an 80 percent approval rating-very impressive."

Holton served as Virginia's governor from 1970-74.

The conference itself costs around $50,000 and will be funded by the Center, Theodoridis said.

"It's expensive to do-we're fortunate that other people are in a position to fund this," he said.

"We owe a great deal to the Governor and the General Assembly for providing seed money for the Center," he added.