Virginia Governor (1978-1982 : Dalton)

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Mills Edwin Godwin, Jr., was born November 19, 1914, at Chuckatuck in Nansemond County, now the City of Suffolk, Virginia.

He completed public school and attended the college of William and Mary. He obtained his degree in law from the University of Virginia in 1938. Honorary doctorate degrees have been awarded him by Elon College, Roanoke College, Elmira College, the College of William and Mary, Washington and Lee University, Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond and Bridgewater College.

While awaiting a commission in the U. S. Navy in World War II, he was appointed a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation where he served for three years prior to resuming the practice of law in Suffolk until he was elected governor of Virginia in 1965.

He first entered politics in 1948 when he began service in the House of Delegates. From 1952 to 1962 he served in the State Senate of Virginia. He was lieutenant-governor of Virginia from 1962 to 1966. During the 26 years he held public office, he ran seventeen times and was never defeated.

His first election as governor in November 1965, came after he had received the Democratic nomination without opposition.

During his administration from 1966 to 1970, he became known as "Virginia's Education Governor," taking the lead in upgrading education at every level from kindergarten through graduate school. Initiated and developed during his first term was the State's system of community colleges, two-year colleges offering occupational-technical and liberal arts training at minimum tuition. Salary increases and other improved benefits were granted teachers and faculty members. State aid to kindergartens, summer schools and classes for the handicapped encouraged broader opportunities throughout Virginia, and a number of other innovations were made in the public schools and higher education. The momentum followed a series of governor's conferences on education early in the administration. He persuaded the General Assembly to enact the Retail Sales Tax which was the first new broad-based tax passed in Virginia in more than one hundred years.

He continued and enlarged the emphasis on industrial development begun by his predecessor, Governor Harrison. He led the first two foreign trade missions and engaged in other efforts designed to attract high caliber new industry to Virginia and to encourage expansion by firms already located in the State. He saw industrial development and education as the principal means of continuing progress in Virginia.

During his tenure, Virginia made major strides also in water and air pollution control, port and park development, interstate, arterial and other highway construction, highway safety, mental health and other areas of State concern.

A blue ribbon commission appointed by Godwin proposed the State's first constitutional revision in forty years. The result was approved overwhelmingly by the voters. He also proposed the first general obligation bond issue in this century and led the campaign in which Virginia's voters approved it by a margin of more than two to one.

As governor he served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, Vice Chairman of the Southern Governors Conference and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Governors Conference and the National Governors' Conference. He also served as Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

After serving as governor from 1966 to 1970, he returned home and became a Director of Standard Brands, Inc., Norfolk and Western Railway Company, Union Camp Corporation, Virginia Real Estate Investment Trust, and Dan River, Inc. and served as a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of Virginia National Bank. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

He resigned all of these posts after being elected governor a second time in November 1973, the first man ever twice elected by the people in Virginia to serve as Chief Executive. He was elected as the Republican nominee after being unopposed in their State Convention. He remains the only candidate in the country ever to win gubernatorial elections in the same state on both Democrat and Republican tickets.

During his second term as governor, he faced a series of crises of major proportions. The Arab oil embargo of late 1973 depressed the State's economy and the State revenues. As governor he ordered reduction of State spending by more than $200 million to keep the budget in balance and, as the economy improved later in his administration, he left a sizable surplus in the budget for his successor. Godwin dealt with the crises of shortages of gasoline, natural gas and fuel oil, the problem of Kepone, ten major floods and seven minor ones and the most serious drought in fifty years occurred in the last year of his administration which caused 115 of the State's 136 political jurisdictions to be designated as disaster areas. Despite these problems, Virginia's forward movement continued during his second term with major improvements in all areas, in job opportunities, and especially in our correctional programs and in public and higher education. He obtained approval from the General Assembly in 1977 for a Referendum on a $125 million General obligation Bond Program, largely earmarked for education and corrections, and again led the campaign which resulted in overwhelming approval for all five bond issues presented to the voters.

His leadership as governor was evidenced everywhere. Virginia's noted Pulitzer Prize winner and editor, Virginius Dabney, wrote that: "His two terms combine to form a series of constructive advances for the Commonwealth that are unsurpassed in the long history of Virginia's governors."

As governor from 1974 to 1978, he was Chairman of the Southern Governors Conference, a member of the Executive Committees of the National Governors' Conference and the Republican Governors' Conference. He was Chairman for the second time of the Southern Regional Education Board and Vice President of the Council of State Governments.

Godwin again returned to his home in Suffolk in January 1978, and served as a consultant to management and a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Virginia National Bank. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of Union Camp Corporation, Standard Brands, Inc. and the Royster Company.

Married to the former Katherine Thomas Beale, Governor Godwin lived in Suffolk where for many years he owned and operated the 500-acre family farm. He has been active in the Oakland Christian Church, where he taught the Men's Bible Class for more than twenty-five years, and engaged in numerous community activities. He was a 33rd degree Mason, past president of Ruritan National, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Delta Phi, the Raven Society and Sigma Phi Epsilon. He was the recipient of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce's Distinguished Service Award, the Virginia National Guard's Distinguished Service Medal, the Virginia Education Association's citation as "Virginia's Education Governor," the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Service from the old Dominion Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the Centennial Medal from Hampton Institute, the Virginians of Maryland Medal, the FFA State Farmer Medal, also twice received a First Citizen's Award from Suffolk and Nansemond County, and the Colgate Whitehead Darden, Jr. Award from Norfolk State College, an award exemplifying highest caliber of statesmanship and interest in education in the Commonwealth. Virginia Military Institute has given him its New Market Medal, the highest award made by V.M.I.

On January 30, 1999, Mills E. Godwin Jr. died in Newport News, Virginia at the age of 84.

  • November 19 1914: Born at Chuckatuck, Virginia, Nansemond County.Son of Otelia Dardenand Mills Edwin Godwin,Sr. Sisters: Mary Lee,Mildred Elizabethand Leah Otelia
  • 1931: Graduated Chuckatuck High SchoolClass President, active in Debating and Speaking
  • 1931 - 32 : College of William and Mary,Norfolk Division
  • 1932 - 34 : College of William and Mary,Williamsburg
  • 1935 - 38 : University of Virginia Law School Law Degree, Raven Society, Omicron Delta Kappa
  • 1937: Passed State Bar Examination
  • 1938: Entered Law Profession
  • 1940: Married Katherine Thomas Bealeof Holland, Virginia
  • 1943 - 45 : Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • 1946: Re-entered Law Profession Involved in Nansemond Countycommunity programs
  • 1947: Nansemond County Nansemond County (historical) Nansemond County Jail (historical) Nansemond County Courthouse (historical) City of Suffolk City of Suffolk Member of Virginia State Bar Association Elected to Virginia House of Delegates, representing Nansemond Countyand the City of Suffolk
  • 1948 - 52 : Member, Virginia House of Delegates Served on following committees: Insurance and Banking, Chesapeake and Its Tributaries, Executive Expenditures, Game and Inland Fisheries, and Nominations and Confirmations
  • 1948: Virginia Virginia North Carolina North Carolina Member Board of Directors, Bank of Whaleyville, Virginia;Member Board of Trustees, Elon College, North Carolina
  • 1949: Active in Oakland Christian Church and civic clubs, lodge, regional and other community activities
  • 1951: Southampton, Nansemond and Isle of Wight counties Suffolk Suffolk Days Inn Suffolk Va Suffolk Downs Station Saint-Émile-de-Suffolk Suffolk (historical) Suffolk Police Narcotics Suffolk Police Department Sector 1 Suffolk West Shopping Center WAFX-FM (Suffolk) Suffolk Pines Suffolk Hill South Suffolk Stud Chabad Center of Mid Suffolk Suffolk Christian Church Suffolk Social Services Building Suffolk University Suffolk County Community College Selden Campus Suffolk Park City of Suffolk Suffolk Swallow Suffolk Hotel Suffolk Suffolk downs Racecourse Franklin Franklin Franklin Senior High School Franklin Center High School Franklin County High School Franklin Cemetery Franklin School Franklin Hill Country Club Franklinton Junior High School Franklin Gulf Franklin School City of Franklin Franklin Township Fire Department Station 52 Franklin K Lane High School Franklin Creek Franklin Cemetery Franklin School (historical) Franklin School Franklin Mountain Franklin School Franklin School New Franklin Franklin Ferry Bridge Columbus Division of Fire Station 10 Franklinton Engine House Elected in special election to Virginia State Senate, Fifth Senatorial District, representing Southampton, Nansemond and Isle of Wight counties,and the cities of Suffolkand Franklin>
  • 1952: Elected President of Ruritan National
  • 1952 - 62 : Member, Virginia State Senate Served on following committees: Chairman, Fish and Game; Finance; Courts of Justice; Counties, Cities and Towns; Enrolled Bills, and Welfare
  • 1954: Awarded Honorary Degree by Elon College Appointed to Public School Study Commission by Thomas B. Stanley, governor of Virginia
  • 1961: Elected lieutenant-governor of Virginia
  • 1962 - 66 : Served as lieutenant-governor of Virginia
  • 1965: Elected Democratic governor of Virginia
  • 1966 - 70 : Served as governor of Virginia - First Administration "Virginia's Education Governor," initiated Community College System and upgraded education at all levels, persuaded General Assembly to enact retail sales tax
  • 1966: Awarded Honorary Degree by College of William and Mary in Virginia
  • 1967: Led first European Trade Mission
  • 1969: Played important role in projecting a revised constitution for Virginia Awarded Honorary Degree by Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia
  • 1970 - 73 : Private Citizen Member, Board of Directors of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation and Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Member, Board of Directors: Standard Brands, Inc., Norfolk and Western Railway Company, Union Camp Corporation, Virginia Real Estate Investment Trust, Dan River Mills, Inc. and Virginia National Bank (Executive Committee)
  • 1970: Awarded Honorary Degree by Washington and Lee University Honorary chairman, Committee of Virginians for the Constitution; Advisory Committee, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. 'sU. S. Senate Campaign
  • 1971: Served on the advisory committee, George J. Kostelfor lieutenant-governor campaign
  • 1972: Awarded Honorary Degree by Elmira College, Elmira, New York Advisory Committee, Re-election of President Richard M. Nixon
  • 1973: Awarded Honorary Degree by Hampden-Sydney College Elected Republican governor of Virginia
  • 1974 - 78 : Served as governor of Virginia - Second Administration First person ever twice elected in Virginia to serve as Chief Executive and first in United States to be elected on both Democratic and Republican tickets
  • 1974: Awarded Honorary Degree by the University of Richmond Awarded Honorary Degree by Bridgewater College
  • 1976: Played important role in Bicentennial celebration
  • 1977: Awarded Navy Public Service Citation
  • 1978: Private citizen Returned to services as consultant and director of various boards Awarded New Market medal by Virginia Military Institute
  • January 30, 1999: Died at Newport News, Virginia.

From the guide to the Mills E. Godwin Jr. Papers, 1947-1989., (Special Collections, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Mills E. Godwin Jr. Papers, 1947-1989. Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary
referencedIn Ted Dalton Papers, 1933-1978, 1952-1959. Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbitt, Watkins Moorman, 1908- person
associatedWith A. Linwood(Abner Linwood)Holton person
associatedWith A. Willis (Absalom Willis) Robertson person
associatedWith Baker, Howard. person
associatedWith Benson, Ezra Taft. person
associatedWith Byrd, Harry Flood, 1887-1966 person
associatedWith Dalton, Ted person
associatedWith Darden, Colgate W. (Colgate Whitehead), 1897-1981 person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 person
associatedWith Ford, Gerald R., 1913- person
associatedWith Godwin, Becky Katherine, 1953-1968 person
associatedWith Godwin family, family
associatedWith Howard, A. E. Dick. person
associatedWith Howell, Henry E. (Henry Evans), 1920- person
associatedWith J. Lindsay(James Lindsay) Almond person
associatedWith J. Sargeant (Julian Sargeant) Reynolds person
associatedWith Lowance, Carter O. (Carter Olin), 1910-1989 person
associatedWith Mills E. Godwin Jr. person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M . (Richard Milhous), 1913- person
associatedWith Paschall, Davis Young, 1911- person
associatedWith Poff, Richard H. (Richard Harding), 1923- person
associatedWith Powell, Lewis F., 1907- person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979 person
associatedWith Smith, Howard Worth, 1883-1976 person
associatedWith Spong, William B. (William Belser), 1920- person
associatedWith Stanley, Thomas B. (Thomas Bahnson), 1890-1970 person
associatedWith Stephens, Allie Edwards Stokes. person
associatedWith William M. (William Munford) Tuck. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
College of William and Mary


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