RICHMOND, Va. — Described by countless friends and colleagues as a caring and dedicated public servant, those closest to Gerald Baliles say the former Virginia governor spent most of his life trying to make the Commonwealth a better place.​​

Former Gov. Baliles died early Tuesday morning after battling cancer. He was surrounded by loved ones, according to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“We lost a big voice,” Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said. 

​One of those closest to Baliles during his time in office was Wilder, who served as Baliles’ Lt. Governor and proceeded him in office. ​On the wall of his office, is a picture with a handful of former governors. In the middle, Baliles smiles at Wilder. ​

“[Baliles] would like to refer to the Commonwealth as the New Dominion rather than the Old Dominion,” former Gov. Wilder said. ​

Serving as Virginia’s 65th governor from 1986 to 1990, Baliles was known as the “transportation governor” for investing millions in infrastructure. He also built relationships abroad to help boost Virginia’s presence in foreign economies. In his later years, Baliles dedicated much of his time to conservation work to protect the Chesapeake Bay. 

Wilder said Baliles used his voice to lift up and support others whose voices weren’t always in government roles. 

“Moving Virginia forward but also inclusiveness,” Wilder explained. “As it relates to minorities, women.” ​​

What will be missed most, though, was Baliles’ selfless work to make Virginia a better place for all who live here. ​

“To lead but lead for the people, to govern for the people, and I think he added a new dimension in that regard,” Wilder said.

Funeral arraignments are still being planned, according to Gov. Northam’s office.  ​​