Former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles dies
Former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles died Oct. 29 at the age of 79.
Baliles, a Democrat, served as governor from 1986-90. He entered palliative care in September after a long battle with cancer.
Baliles' tenure is perhaps best remembered for a massive transportation funding bill passed by the General Assembly during a special session in 1986. The legislature would not pass another comprehensive transportation funding bill until 2013.
In a statement, Gov. Ralph Northam praised Baliles, saying the former governor “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.”
Northam also said that Baliles “promoted civil discourse, and was the epitome of a true public servant.”
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, also a former Virginia governor, called Baliles “one of the most accomplished governors of the 20th century.”
In addition to improving the commonwealth’s transportation system, Kaine said in a statement that Baliles “pushed environmental policies [with the understanding that] economic growth and conservation go hand-in-hand, and led unprecedented international missions that laid the groundwork for Virginia to become the global trade hub it is today.”
Retired Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Hugh Keogh directed Virginia’s economic development efforts during Baliles’ administration.
Keogh said the former governor had “an enormous impact in raising the visibility of economic development in the commonwealth and around the nation and making Virginia a star.”
Baliles “thoroughly enjoyed selling Virginia in the global economy,” Keogh said. “He got right into prospects’ mindset and enjoyed telling them about the advantages of Virginia as a business location.”
In an interview with Virginia Business in 2016, Baliles said trade missions were a high priority during his tenure, resulting in foreign businesses announcing more than 100 new ventures in the commonwealth, representing investments of $650 million to $700 million.
Baliles also focused on the growth of Virginia exports, which accounted for 25% of the commonwealth’s economic growth in 1989, the last full year of his term.
After Baliles left office, he practiced law, largely focusing on aviation and international law. He later became director of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, which specializes in presidential scholarship and public policy. Baliles retired from the Miller Center in 2014.
Survivors include his wife, Robin; his two children, former Richmond City Council member Jon Baliles and Laura Baliles Osberger; his stepdaughters, Katherine Stone Walsh and Danielle Deal Hudak; and four grandchildren.
State flags will be flown at half-staff for 30 days in Baliles' memory.
From the Virginia Business archives: Former governor recalls the issues of 1986