Notices sorted by graduation date.

July 8, 1940—Oct. 29, 2019

Virginia’s 65th governor fought for transportation, education and the environment

Gerald L. Baliles (Law ’67 L/M), who served as Virginia’s 65th governor before leading UVA’s Miller Center, died Oct. 29. He was 79.

Gerald L. Baliles Dan Addison

As governor from 1986 to 1990, the Democrat championed a $10 billion initiative to improve transportation in the commonwealth; worked on the national, state and local levels to strengthen education; and committed Virginia to a $100 million cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, including a ban on offshore drilling. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation named him conservationist of the year for 2004. 

“It would not be hyperbole to say Jerry was one of the Commonwealth’s most accomplished governors of the twentieth century,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said in a statement.

Following his governorship, Gov. Baliles served with the Richmond law firm Hunton & Williams. After retiring as a partner, he directed UVA’s Miller Center of Public Affairs from 2006 until 2014. 

Perhaps Gov. Baliles’ most significant accomplishment at the center, according to current director and CEO William J. Antholis (Col ’86), was his oversight of the National War Powers Commission, addressing the interplay between Congress and the president over decisions around war. Sens. Kaine and John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced the War Powers Consultation Act in 2014, based on those recommendations, which Sen. Kaine is still working to pass.

In 2018, the Miller Center also established an endowed professorship in Gov. Baliles’ name in honor of his work, Antholis says, to make the center a “premier place for the study of the presidency in this country.”

Gov. Baliles attended Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, Virginia, and earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. After graduating from UVA in 1967 with a law degree, he served as assistant Virginia attorney general and then deputy attorney general until 1975, when he left to practice law in Richmond. He then returned to public service as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1976 until 1982 and finally as attorney general until 1985, before winning the governor’s race.

Gov. Baliles’ son, Jonathan Baliles, says he’s proud of his father’s vision, particularly his expansion of the Port of Virginia, which much later would increase economic development in the state and enhance international trade. But education and reading might have been the passions closest to his father’s heart, he says. During the governor’s childhood, reading was an escape from life in rural Patrick County, Virginia, “a ticket to wherever you wanted to go.” And so the governor invested in education for others.

Upon hearing of Gov. Baliles’ death, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam directed that all Virginia state flags be flown at half-staff for 30 days—an honor usually reserved for presidents and former presidents. The UVA Board of Visitors issued a memorial resolution in his honor.

Gov. Baliles is survived by his wife, Robin Marshall Deal Baliles; his children, Laura, Jonathan Baliles (Col ’93), Katherine and Danielle; four granddaughters; his former wife, Jeannie Patterson Baliles; and his father-in-law.

—Diane J. McDougall