Gerald L. Baliles, 65th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, died October 29, 2019, after an illness that was announced publicly in September. He was at home, surrounded by his family, in Charlottesville. He was 79.
Baliles served as Governor from 1986-1990, in a time of social transition and technological advances. His election in 1985 made national news as he led the most diverse ticket of candidates in Virginia's history, with Mary Sue Terry as the first woman Attorney General, and L. Douglas Wilder as the first African American Lieutenant Governor.
His legacy lives on in Virginia's transportation system, its public schools and universities, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and the international markets where Virginia's products are sold.
A native of Virginia, Baliles was born and raised in rural Patrick County in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he lived with his grandparents on their farm.
He attended Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia, and went on to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government. In 1967, he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He then joined the Virginia Attorney General's office, where he became known for his expertise in environmental law.
He left the Attorney General's office to practice law in Richmond, focusing on energy and environmental issues. But the call to public service led him to successfully run for the Virginia House of Delegates representing Richmond and Henrico County between 1976-1982. In 1981, he was elected Virginia's Attorney General. During his term, he was chosen as the Outstanding Attorney General of the United States by his peers.
Support for his leadership grew and he became a candidate for governor. He won in 1985 with more than 55% of the vote.
He delivered on his promise to make transportation an economic building block, with new roads and improvements to the port and airports in Virginia. He saw education as the key to economic development, raising teachers' salaries and fully funding school budgets. By identifying themes for each of his four years in office, he gave clear purpose to state government policies. His continuing leadership was recognized by the National Governors Association when he was elected as its chairman during his term.
He expanded Virginia's horizons in global trade by "opening doors and closing deals" for new markets across the country and around the world. His policies produced the highest per capita income in the South, with more than 300,000 jobs created during his administration.
Whenever possible, he would include a fishing trip in the schedule, including leaving his Capitol office on some days to fish in the James River.
At the end of his four-year term as Governor, he joined the law firm of Hunton & Williams (now Hunton Andrews Kurth), based in Richmond, as a partner, focusing on aviation and international law. In 1995, he authored a book, "Preserving the Chesapeake Bay." He also served as chairman of the Public Broadcasting System and the Virginia Historical Society.
He left Hunton & Williams in 2006 to become director and CEO of the University of Virginia Miller Center. While there, he created the National Discussion and Debate Series and the National War Powers Commission, increasing the visibility and influence of the Center and the University.
In 2014, he announced his retirement and, as a frequent visitor to the Homeplace where he was raised, he created the Patrick County Education Foundation.
Governor Baliles was preceded in death by his grandparents, James Lee and Emma Baliles; his father, Syrus Baliles; and his brothers, Larry W. Baliles and R. Stuart Baliles.
He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Robin Marshall Deal Baliles; his children, Laura Baliles Osberger (Steve), Jonathan Tabor Baliles, Katherine Deal Stone Walsh (Steve), and Danielle Deal Hudak (David); his grandchildren, Madison and Emily Stone and Olivia and Nadia Hudak; his former wife, Jeannie Patterson Baliles; and his father-in-law, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert W. Marshall.
A service for the celebration of his life will be held Saturday, November 16, 2019, at 1:30 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 120 W. High Street, in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. A reception will follow the service. Handicapped parking will be available adjacent to the church. All others are invited to park at The CFA Institute, 915 E. High St, Charlottesville. Shuttle service will be provided.
The family wishes to thank Governor Baliles' personal caregiver, Ms. Beryl Mitchell; his nurse, Sarah Dewitt; and his CNA, NaShell Williams for their attentive and loving care during the Governor's final days; and the entire medical team at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial donation to the Patrick County Education Foundation, Attention: Greg Hodges, Executive Director, 645 Patriot Drive, Martinsville, VA 24112.
An online guest book is available at www.hillandwood.com.
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