Republicans and Democrats in Virginia are mourning the death of former Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles, who died Tuesday morning at the age 79.
Baliles, a Democrat who served as governor between 1986 and 1990, spent much of his career, during and after his governorship, pushing for transportation improvements in the commonwealth. He also backed environmental preservation efforts, especially the Chesapeake Bay.
“As the 65th Governor of Virginia, he understood and valued the role government can play in improving citizens’ lives,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release.
”He transformed Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, signed Virginia into the Chesapeake Bay agreement under which we still operate today, and focused on expanding access to higher education, among many other accomplishments,” Northam said. “Governor Baliles fought for rural Virginians, promoted civil discourse, and was the epitome of a true public servant.”
Baliles was also remembered fondly by former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, with whom he went to law school at the University of Virginia. Baliles was the first governor that Howell served in the House of Delegates under.
“Even though we were on different sides of the aisle, I always felt he was willing to listen and engage with those of us in a distinct minority,” Howell said in a news release. “I appreciated greatly that example throughout my time in the House of Delegates. Governor Baliles leaves behind a legacy of accomplishment and distinction. He was, quite simply, a very good Governor. Cessie and I send our deepest condolences to his family during their time of grief."
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, offered his condolences to Baliles’s family on behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus.
“Governor Baliles was a truly transformational leader for the Commonwealth,” Norment said in a news release.
“His tenure as governor was among the most eventful and consequential in history,” Norment said. “His focus on modernizing the Commonwealth’s approach to funding transportation brought about significant improvements. Those changes benefited Virginia’s economy then and add to our quality of life today.”
Northam ordered flags to be flown at half staff for 30 days.