Former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles (1940-2019)

Gerald Baliles, who served as Virginia governor from 1986-90, passed away Tuesday after a battle with kidney cancer. He was 79. Born in Stuart, Virginia, the Democratic politician also served in the Virginia House of Delegates and as the Commonwealth’s attorney general during the administration of Gov. Chuck Robb.

During the later years of his life he was director of UVa’s Miller Center, serving from 2006-2014, and oversaw a number of projects:

Most notably, he established the National War Powers Commission, co-chaired by James Baker and Warren Christopher. The group developed a proposed revision of the War Powers Act, which was submitted for consideration by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John McCain (R-AZ). Baliles also initiated the David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference which led to a commission report presented to President Obama in the White House Rose Garden. Baliles also oversaw a series of other commissions on competitiveness, entrepreneurialism, health policy, and higher education. And he kicked off a national discussion and debate series (broadcast on ABC News and PBS) and created the American Forum television program, which ran for six years.

He will also be remembered for the presidential oral history projects that the Miller Center established under his watch:

Under his leadership, the Miller Center launched the George W. Bush Presidential Oral History Project (to be released to the public this Friday, November 1, 2019) and the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project (which was released in 2015). He also oversaw the public release of the George H. W. Bush Oral History Project and the Bill Clinton Presidential History Project, and laid the groundwork for the Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Project, which the Miller Center is currently conducting.

As news of his passing spread across the Old Dominion, many reached out with words of condolence.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam:

“I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Governor Gerald Baliles.

“As the 65th Governor of Virginia, he understood and valued the role government can play in improving citizens’ lives. 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.

“Governor Baliles fought for rural Virginians, promoted civil discourse, and was the epitome of a true public servant.

“While his accomplishments in office were, and remain, impressive, I will miss him for the kind ear and the sound advice he was always willing to give to me. Pam and I send our deepest sympathies to his wife, children, and loved ones.

“I have directed that Virginia state flags be flown at half-staff in Governor Baliles’ honor for the next 30 days.”

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox:

“Governor Baliles was a caring, conscientious and exceptional life-long public servant.

“He was a distinguished member of the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as the Attorney General of Virginia prior to becoming Virginia’s 65th Governor.

“Like elected officials on both sides of the aisle, along with the citizens of all walks, I believe Governor Baliles tackled and tried in earnest to solve, head on, real problems affecting the people of Virginia.  He focused on the practical needs of Virginians such as transportation improvements and economic development.  He also championed higher education and led the charge in the Commonwealth against illiteracy.

“He cared deeply about Virginia’s natural resources and was named Conservationist of the Year by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2005 after working tirelessly for years to help clean up the Bay and keep it healthy.

“During his time in office and in the years following, he contributed greatly to helping our Commonwealth fulfill the richness of its potential.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Baliles family during this difficult time.”

Former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell: 

“I knew Governor Baliles from our time as law school classmates at the University of Virginia, and I am deeply saddened by his passing.

“He was the first Governor with whom I served in the House of Delegates. 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. 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 Thomas K. Norment, Jr.:

“Governor Baliles was a truly transformational leader for the Commonwealth.

“His tenure as governor was among the most eventful and consequential in history.  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.

“Governor Baliles had a deep and personal commitment to education and the environment, which he championed as governor and continued to promote as a former governor.

“On behalf of the entire Senate Republican Caucus, I extend my sincere and heartfelt sympathies to the Baliles family.”

Background:

-UVA Miller Center: Remembering Gov. Gerald Baliles

-Virginia Business: Former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles dies

-Washington Post: Gerald Baliles, moderate Virginia governor who was ‘boldly cautious,’ dies at 79