Editor’s note: Many thanks to First Lady Anne Holton’s Assistant Asha Holloman and Governor Kaine’s Press Aide Kimberley R. Busch for assistance with this article.
Making history is nothing new to Virginia’s First Lady Anne Holton. She is not the first First Lady of Virginia whose father was Governor; Martha Jefferson Randolph was. Her father Thomas Jefferson served as the Commonwealth’s second Governor, and husband Thomas Mann Randolph was Governor from 1819 to 1822. The First Lady’s father The Honorable A. Linwood Holton was in office from 1970 to 1974, she is the first one to have lived in the Executive Mansion as both a girl and as the wife of the Governor. She is the first one to have the benefit of advice from her mother Jinks Holton who was a history making First Lady in her own right. Anne Holton, who prefers most of all to be called “Anne” is the first lawyer and judge to become First Lady, and is one of the first Governor’s wives to retain her maiden name. Former Governor Mark R. Warner’s (2002—2006) wife Lisa Collis retained her name as well. Raised a Presbyterian, she is our first to be married to a Governor who is Catholic. She lives with Governor Kaine, her three children, Nat, Woody, and Annella, and the First Dog Gina in the oldest continuously lived in executive residence in the nation. Our Executive Mansion was designed by New England house wright Alexander Parris in 1813. The house has been featured in several history and architecture documentaries on television.
She greeted us on the landing of the second floor private quarters of the Executive Mansion and offered us a seat in the upstairs sitting area. She is petite, soft spoken and seemed used to making guests feel comfortable. The seating area overlooked the construction zone that has been the Capitol all during the Warner Administration, and though almost completed at the time of our interview, still looked pretty much like a war zone.
The only thing that felt awkward at first was figuring out what to call her. Judge Holton? Madam First Lady? Ms. Holton? She said she prefers to be called “just Anne, please,” although the staff and others struggle with that. So she has compromised and has them refer to her as “Ms. H,” that in many ways reminds her of another “Ms. H.”
“I really prefer to be called Anne. I used to go through this when I was on the bench and I tried to tell everyone who wasn’t in court that I needed to be called Judge Holton, absolutely. Outside the courtroom people who knew me primarily through court and were regularly interacting with me in the courtroom, I understood and expected them to call me Judge Holton. But everybody else I felt like I was still Anne, and wanted to still be Anne. But lawyers all over town felt like they needed to call me Judge Holton, and I would say, ‘Please let me be Anne when I’m off duty.
“And here,” she gestured around, “that was a funny thing. I tried getting people to call me Anne and for the most part they just weren’t going to be comfortable with that, so now they call me Ms. Holton, or Ms. H, and I feel like they are talking to my mother!” She said her children find her hilarious because she now refers to herself as “Ms. H.” in the third person.
HOMECOMING & HISTORY
We asked what it is like to return to one’s childhood home when it is as historically significant as the Executive Mansion. She laughed and said, “It was more lived in by the time we were done.
Click image to view ad;
Becky Godwin was the adopted daughter of Governor Mills E. Godwin Jr. (1966–1970, 1974—1978) and Mrs. Godwin. Tragically, Becky died while they were in office. It was a sad time for the Godwins and the Commonwealth.
“Now,” she said, “we follow a run of almost every Governor since then except for Governor Wilder had youngsters running around the place making it their own. The staff are ready to see what these new batch of children are going to be like.”
Their two teenage boys and a middle school daughter have it somewhat easier than her family did when they moved into the mansion in 1970. For one thing, her family moved from Ginter Park in Richmond, so the kids’ friends can keep in touch fairly easily. When she moved in as a girl, she left behind her friends in Roanoke, and the transition was not an easy one. She recalled shortly after her father took office, she enjoyed a pajama party for her 12th birthday, and her pals from Roanoke were imported for the occasion. There are still tales about Anne and her pajama clad friends taking turns sliding down the marble surrounds on the Capitol steps.
Other children of Governors have said that it is a fish bowl existence being front and center for the public’s attention on Capitol Square. She said it was a fish bowl for her and her siblings too, but not always in a bad way. “I’m sure you know that one of the most important contributions dad made while he was Governor was not the one that he really sought out, but what happened during his term with the integration of public schools. It gave him an opportunity to be part of the solution on race relations in Virginia. He and mom really helped us see that as a family opportunity. So we were more in a fish bowl on our decision about staying with the public schools and almost entirely African American schools because white flight for those several years.
“We got national and international attention. There’s that picture of my sister going to school [escorted by Governor Holton]. My brother and I went to Mosby [Middle School—now Martin Luther King Jr.] with my mother. We got letters from soldiers in Vietnam who had seen that picture and taken inspiration from it. So that was a fish bowl experience for sure, but we learned it as an opportunity to be part of something that mattered.” She said she and her siblings got this message from their parents loud and clear: “‘Life is an opportunity,’ is really their philosophy and it helped us to see it that way. It was a great opportunity.
“My parents I think also helped us have a sense of adventure and fun about the whole experience, and I’m hoping we are conveying that to our kids. There were a lot of pluses as well as minuses. We got to go on trips and meet some extraordinary people. I think all of us look back on it as a positive experience.”
She said her brother Woody teaches history at the nearby University of Richmond. He is a published author, and his second book was just published, and is working on a third. Her sister Tayloe, the girl in the famous photo with her father, is a doctor in upstate New York, and her other brother Dwight works in the US Attorney’s office in Portland, Oregon. She said that all four of them are trying to find things to do with work and avocations that give that feeling of giving back to their respective communities.
Her mother Jinks Holton was responsible for some history making of her own when she was Virginia First Lady from 1970 to 1974. Anne explained, “Mom help created some things when she was here that I have really benefited from, along with all the First Ladies since then. When she was here, there was no mansion director. There was staff, but she was basically herself responsible for hiring and firing and supervising staff on a day–to–day basis. There was no staff for her outside activities, any initiative she would be involved with, she would be completely on her own.
“She helped create a position that has become the mansion director position that really is a blessing to me. Amy Bridge does such a phenomenal job and all the entertaining that we do here—I feel almost like a guest. I don’t have to worry. People will say, ‘What are you serving tonight?’ And I’ll say, ‘I don’t know, but I hope it will be wonderful.’” First Lady Jinks Holton also started the citizens advisory group that advises on the decor, education and historic preservation of the mansion. “I love this building. I love this space. But I am out of my area of expertise in terms of historic preservation and helping to interpret the building well. I am very, very grateful to the citizens advisory council that Mom helped start. It still serves that role today.”
Today we are impressed by the furnishings and period touches around the old mansion, but during Jinks Holton’s tenure antiques were few and far between. So, the citizens advisory committee started figuring out what appropriate period pieces would work in a space that was a home as well as a public setting. We remember during Governor Gerald Baliles’ term, a large air conditioned tractor trailer was used to store important pieces when the mansion was open for huge crowds so nothing would get damaged, and also so there would be room in the place for guests.
“It’s a hard living house,” Anne said, “with the public evenings here on a regular basis, and the turnover every four years.”
We asked if her mother gave her any good advice about being First Lady. She nodded and said, “‘Have fun with it,’” was what both her parents said, and reminded them that it’s only “‘four years,’” as her father intoned in his best baritone. “Enjoy it while it lasts, and remember that it ends.”
We asked her how she got started on her public service path that resulted in her serving as a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge.
Click image to view ad;
|Ferris Baker Watts|
“I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision not to go into politics. I think it’s safe to say that I am much more of an advocate personality. The judiciary made sense for me in ways. But I’m really such an advocate personality. I would find I can do it, but I find it hard to do what my husband has to do regularly, which is the compromising, bringing people together role. He does that so naturally. I’m always such a Mack truck going off on my views on whatever the issues are. More naturally my legal aid career was the one that most naturally fit my personality as an advocate.
“The judiciary made sense for me because I was in juvenile court where I really felt like I could be an advocate for families and children and the community in such a way that fit. I’m fairly decisive and I like to think I listen well, which is really important for that job. Then hopefully, make up my mind, make a decision, then move on—that’s an important thing for the judiciary especially at the lower court level, the pace being what it is you can’t be second guessing yourself over every decision—that’s what the appellate courts are for. So my personality fits there too, but it was kind of a surprise for me to end up there. That’s not something I would have ever thought growing up that I would have ended up on the bench. I might have thought Tim might have ended up there.”
MEETING THE FUTURE GOVERNOR
When we asked how she met Governor Kaine, her voice softened.
“We met in law school, what was the second year of law school for both us.” She explained that he began law school the year before she did, then went to Honduras for a year, then returned for what was the second year law for both of them. “We had mutual friends who told me there was this cute guy with curly black hair that I should be looking out for when he came back from Honduras. I was actually recruiting for a student organization. We were looking for new members, and he had been involved a little bit [with it] in his first year. I went looking for him to pull him back into that, and we had some classes together and studied together. Study groups were something folks did in law school.
“I think it’s safe to say that I was the fisherman and he was the fish,” she said, laughing. “I think he’ll acknowledge that he didn’t realize it at the time. It was very mutual and very early on when we first met that we both knew we had a lot in common and liked each other right away.
“I remember we were dating Earth Day which is late in February because I remember conspiring with his roommates to get him back to his house for the surprise party they had for his birthday.”
At three and a half weeks older than the Governor, she gets to be the “older woman” every year for a few weeks, and she said she enjoys holding it over him.
AVOCATIONS AND FUTURE POLITICIANS?
She said she is grateful for her supportive Ginter Park neighbors and other friends who have all stood by each other over the years she has been a young wife, lawyer, mom, and now First Lady. They developed a babysitting cooperative so the moms could have some quality time with other adults when the kids were little. “We’ve gone bike riding together for years,” she said. “We have a bike riding group called the Mother Bikers, partly because we were enjoying biking together and partly because biking was a good way to get away from our little kids together. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood in the same age range, so lots of moms were going through the same experiences.
“My biking somehow evolved, and I still bicycle and Nat will get me out. He’s a very serious rider and every once in a while he’ll take me out and we’ll go riding together.” She said she has discovered the joy of running as well. “I’m not fast, I’m not good, but I’m steady, and I run four or five times a week about three miles. I often go downtown and go run down by the river or I go out to Byrd Park sometimes. I’m a fairly steady runner.”
She also belongs to a book club that is as much about the friendship and support as it is the books themselves. It’s a valued outlet, and with a schedule that leaves very little time for what we sometimes call “me” time, it can be managed.
She said one of the great things about making time for spouse, family, and friends is that as First Lady she has a life and can give more to the rest of the Commonwealth. She is particularly drawn to causes near and dear to her heart like children, families, and foster care. While she gets many requests for public appearances, she is finding it difficult, but necessary to sometimes say “no” because if she didn’t, her family would miss this pivotal time in their lives.
What if one of her children told her one day that he or she wanted to enter politics?
“Well, of course, I would help them if that is what they choose to do,” she said. “It’s funny to see how politics does sometimes run in families. In particular, it’s funny in my case where it runs through the in laws. I guess it's not completely coincidental I think in two ways. One is that I do think being part of a political family makes you understand that people in political office are not something other than the rest of us. My children know that Dad wears loud Hawaiian shirts and looks silly in a bathing suit at the beach just like anybody else. He carries on a really pretty normal life much of the day as an ex politician.
“I still stand in awe of movie stars and athletes, but I’m not really in awe of politicians. I enjoy meeting folks who are making contributions in that area, but I don’t think of them up on some pedestal different from the rest of us. That was the way that my family’s political involvement influenced my husband’s entry into politics, and that would certainly influence my children.
“And another way in which I think it influences them is that Dad has always preached and I think that my children hear it from my Dad and us is that if good people don’t go into politics, then you don’t end up with good people in politics. We all think of politics as a form of public service, and as something that deserves attention from good people.”
|An error occurred on the server when processing the URL. Please contact the system administrator. If you are the system administrator please click here to find out more about this error.|