A native of rural Patrick County in Southwest Virginia, Baliles was elected Virginia attorney general in the 1981 Democratic sweep that brought Gov. Charles S. Robb into office. Baliles resigned his office in June to run full time for governor.
As the state's next chief executive, he will be paid $85,000 a year and oversee a vast bureaucracy of state administrative and law enforcement offices with a biennial budget of more than $17 billion.
In addition, he will control about 2,000 patronage appointments to various boards and commissions in a state considered to have one of the most powerful gubernatorial offices in the country.
Baliles has pledged not to seek any general tax increases and to leave office with no more government employes than when he begins his term at noon Jan. 11.
Viewed as a party moderate, Baliles last spring upset Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis of Portsmouth for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Baliles, an intensely serious man in public who rarely sought publicity as attorney general, is known among family and friends as a man with a wry sense of humor and a love for fishing and camping.
A voracious reader, Baliles says he discovered early that he disliked the sometimes harsh life style of the farm and credits his interest in books and national publications with exposing him to the world beyond the confines of his home county.
Reared by grandparents after his parents separated when he was 6, Baliles worked part time as a teen-ager to help pay his way to Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro. After undergraduate school, he worked for a year in the Fishburne library before attending law school in Charlottesville.
Baliles worked eight years as an assistant and deputy state attorney general in Richmond before going into private practice and winning a seat in the House of Delegates in 1975, where he served until election as attorney general.
As a legislator, he was voted one of the most effective members of the 100-member House by a Norfolk newspaper.
Baliles took over as attorney general in January 1982, overseeing a reorganization of the office.
Baliles, the father of two, is married to the former Jeannie Patterson of Baltimore.