IRVINGTON, VA. (WRIC) — Virginia Rogers Holton, the wife of former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton Jr. and an early advocate for school desegregation, passed away on Friday, Dec. 16 at the age of 97.

“Our Mom, Virginia ‘Jinks’ Holton, passed away peacefully this morning, surrounded by family, in her home at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury in Irvington, Virginia,” a statement from Holton’s children read.

Holton, alongside her husband of 67 years, former Governor Linwood Holton Jr., were early advocates for school desegregation. In 1970, when Richmond Public Schools were first desegregated, the Holtons kept their children in school despite many other white families pulling their children out of class. A photograph at the time even showed Holton personally walking her daughter to her newly desegregated school.

Virginia Rogers Holton, the former First Lady of Virginia, walks her children to school in 1970, shortly after Richmond Public Schools were desegregated. (Credit: Anne Holton)

“Mom was a partner in what she and Dad forged into the family business: racial justice and civil rights for all Virginians,” the statement from Holton’s children reads. “She and Dad together decided, when he was Governor, that our family would help integrate Virginia’s public schools, tearing down barriers to employment, and opening opportunities for all.”

In addition to her work with desegregation, Holton had a rich history in advocacy. After finishing college, she spent two years in Belgium working on U.S. intelligence in post-war Europe. Later in life, Holton regularly volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, was the first woman to serve on the board at Washington and Lee University, led efforts to improve nutrition for Virginia’s children and helped to found the child advocacy group Northern Neck Court Appointed Special Advocates.

“On top of all this, to us she was Mom,” the statement from Holton’s family emphasized. She helped us with school work. She drove us to music lessons and sports practice. She made us molasses cookies and chocolate silk pie. She taught us the values and priorities of family and community and justice that have shaped who we all are – and in turn shaped our children.”

One of Holton’s children is Anne Holton, former Virginia Secretary of Education and wife of Senator Tim Kaine.