Virginias First Ladies Are Mother, Daughter Duo

This story was written by Katie Thisdell, The Breeze
The only mother and daughter team of Virginias past and present governing first ladies spoke at James Madison Universityon Tuesday evening.

First Lady Anne Holton is the wife of Gov. Tim Kaine. Her mother, Virginia Jinks Holton, is married to Linwood Holton, who was the states governor from 1970 to 1974.

During the fireside chat in the ballroom of the Festival Conference and Student Center, the pair spoke about living in the Governors Executive Mansion, experiencing racial integration in the public schools and the nations current political arena.

In 1970, Jinks and Linwood enrolled their three children in the previously all-black neighborhood schools.

All you young people might not remember this, but that was a big enough deal that we had our pictures in the newspaper, Anne said. All we did was go to school, but the way the world reacted to it, we were in the fishbowl.

But Jinks said that she knew it was the right decision.

Though it was in ways a difficult decision, in some ways it was not difficult, Anne said. I think its safe to say that none of my siblings came away feeling like we were sacrificed for the cause. We realized people are people, and we did have different backgrounds and different experiences.

She attributes this lesson to her commitment to public service as a legal aid lawyer representing low-income families, and later serving as a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge.

Being a judge prevented her from campaigning for her Democratic husband during his runs for local and state positions.

Jinks, however, was active during Linwoods run for office. She noted that her husband and his opponent were friends before and after the election.

Nobody ever said anything unkind about the other candidate, Jinks said. It never occurred to us to do that.

She compared that attitude to the recent elections. With constant attack ads and hostilities between political parties, Jinks said she wants to go back to those days.

I hope that the young people will be the ones to make that change back to where you are still human beings and can still be friends, Jinks said.

This year, Anne campaigned for President-elect Barack Obama with Gov. Kaine.I hope folks generally have some appreciation for what it means for our country to be able to put behind us, in a significant way, our racial past, Anne said.

The event was sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the department of political science.Political science professor Pete Giesen helped organize the event. The former member of the House of Delegates is a long-time friend of the Holton family. The 36 years of history separating the two women cover much of his practical politics of Virginia course.

This is a unique opportunity for us to listen about the period of tension and how they helped bring understanding and change, Giesen said. There were two aspects I wanted everyone to get out of this: the historical period and the current viewpoint of what its like to be first lady.

Speaking on the role of first lady, Anne and Jinks compared their lives in the mansion. Anne called her position a great gig, and has even told children its like being queen of Virginia for a few years.

However, Jinks said she was considered the governors wife.

With the title like first lady though, youre expected to go out and do something, Jinks said.

Though the audience was smaller than Giesen expected and filled about a third of the ballroom, those who attended found the presentation meaningful. Members of Harrisonburg City Council and members of the Rockingham County Board f Supervisors also attended.

Stephanie Leney, a student in Giesens course, saw the evening as living history and was struck by their emphasis on positive campaigning.

It was great to actually get to talk to these influential women, the junior political science major said. We dont think that what were doing today will really make a difference, but whos to say we couldnt do something.

Audience member Dan Stana, a senior public policy administration major, appreciated how the two women were candid during their discussion. Afterward, Anne even said she learned things from her mother she had never heard before and thought the event was fun.

This probably wasnt something youd see on TV, Stana said. It was uncensored. Thats how it should be.

Contact Katie Thisdell at thisdeke@jmu.edu
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