Many people have played major roles in the birth and development of the National Center for State Courts. One of those individuals was former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton. Governor Holton passed away on October 28, 2021, at the age of 98.
Governor Holton was instrumental in arranging the First National Conference on the Judiciary in Williamsburg in March 1971. At that Conference, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called for the creation of a National Center for State Courts to serve as a central resource whose sole mission would be to help state courts address the burgeoning caseloads and changing demands of our society.
Although the Center was originally housed in Washington, D.C., Governor Holton envisioned the permanent headquarters of the Center to be in Williamsburg. In his words, it seemed fitting to have an entity born to improve the administration of justice which is so fundamental to the American system of government, located near the birthplace of our nation. Likewise, the symbolism of having the National Center for State Courts situated between the William & Mary Law School and the then Williamsburg Courthouse was compelling. Within a few hundred yards, there would exist the academic preparation for the law, the practical application of the law in everyday life, and the home of those dedicated not only to improving the efficient and timely administration of justice but also ensuring the long-term health and vitality of the state courts. His vision became a reality when NCSC moved into its headquarters in Williamsburg in 1978.
Governor Holton was influential in securing a favorable lease from the College of William & Mary for the land which houses the Center. He also was tireless in his efforts to raise private funds, which became the Virginia Fund, dedicated to supporting the Center’s work with Virginia courts. To recognize his leadership, NCSC dedicated the main all-purpose meeting room at its headquarters building in his honor.
On the occasion of the Center’s 50th anniversary, Governor Holton penned a letter to our leadership and noted that the Center has lived up to and far exceeded the expectations of the early founders. He went on to express his pride in having played a role in bringing the National Center for State Courts to Williamsburg.
The Center acknowledges with gratitude the service and dedication of Governor A. Linwood Holton and expresses to his family sincere sympathy upon his passing.
Written by Robert Baldwin, NCSC Executive Vice President and General Counsel and former Virginia State Court Administrator