RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Virginia Gov. John Dalton, a popular Republican who led the state GOP to dominance in the 1970s, died Wednesday at the Medical College of Virginia from lung cancer. He was 55.
Dalton, who had battled the disease for four years, was admitted in serious condition Tuesday and grew steadily worse, said Carole Roper, a hospital spokeswoman.
Dalton, one of the state's most popular chief executives, served as governor from 1977 to 1981.
'Virginia has lost one of her great sons,' said Republican Party chairman Donald Huffman, whose friendship with the Dalton family goes back 30 years.
His popularity transcended the normal intraparty disputes. But he resisted efforts by the GOP to draft him for a second term in 1985 -- by that time he had suffered a bout with lung cancer that required removal of the lower lobe of his right lung.
The operation at the Medical College of Virginia in 1983 was a success, but Dalton experienced complications again in 1985.
While the effects of therapy sidelined him on occasion, Dalton continued his legal work as well as his commitments to various corporate boards and charities.
In 1986, he was appointed, along with five other former governors, to serve on Gov. Gerald Baliles' Commission on Virginia's Transportation in the 21st Century.
Dalton, a millionaire lawyer, businessman and farmer, always said his highest political goal was to be governor of Virginia.
Dalton served as a member of the House of Delegates from 1966 to 1972, was elected to the Senate in 1972 and then ran a successful campaign for lieutenant governor in 1973.