Blake Tyler Newton Sr., a former Virginia state senator and educator, died Saturday in a Richmond hospital. He was 87.
Mr. Newton served in the Virginia Senate from 1955 to 1965, and was an opponent of the state's "massive resistance" to public school desegregation ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
Mr. Newton's opposition to massive resistance cost him his job as president of the State Board of Education, a position he had held from 1946 to 1957. An editorial in The Washington Post commented that Mr. Newton's replacement seemed to be "a kind of punishment to Sen. Newton for nonconformity - and in the process a punishment for Virginians who are working for orderly compliance with the law."
As president of the state Board of Education, Mr. Newton has opposed former Gov. Thomas Stanley's plan to cut off state school funds to localities that complied with the Court's desegregation decision.
A lifetime resident of Hague in Westmoreland County, Mr. Newton was school superintendent of Richmond and Westmoreland counties for 41 years. He began his career in education at Hamilton High School in 1910, and later served as principal of the Blue Ridge Industrial School at St. George, Va.
Mr. Newton received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.
As school superintendent, Mr. Newton helped to modernize public school education in the state, eliminating more than 30 one-room schoolhouses and developing a school bus transportation system. He also oversaw the consolidation of elementary and high schools in the two counties.
As a state senator, Mr. Newton was a member of a 20-man coalition that supported former Gov. J. Lindsay Almond against a 19-member bloc of strict segregationists in the Virginia General Assembly.
He was also a leader of the "Straight Democratic Ticket" organization that fought the "Eisenhower Democrats" and the then powerful Byrd organization and worked for the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
After his retirement from the state Senate in 1965, Mr. Newton practiced law part-time and was a director of the Farmer's Bank of Hague, of which he was also legal counsel.
He is survived by two sons, Edward C., of Crittendon, Va., and Blake T. Jr., of Washington; a daughter, Bertha Davison, of Montross, Va., and 10 grandchildren.