Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Services Friday for Former First Lady Virginia Knight, 92
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Funeral services are set for Friday for Virginia Knight, former first lady of California, who died Monday.
She was 92.
A poetess, the former Virginia Carlson was wed on Aug. 2, 1954, to California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight. They remained in the executive mansion until January of 1959 when the term to which the Republican Goodwin Knight was elected in 1954 expired.
Virginia Knight viewed it as a favorable omen when the telephone number that was randomly assigned to a grassroots Knight for Governor organization on Aug. 2, 1961 was “DUnkirk 7-3131.” The phone was hooked up on the Knights’ seventh wedding anniversary, and Goodwin Knight was the 31st governor of the 31st state.
However, a bout with hepatitis precluded the former governor from seeking to regain the post he had occupied for five years. As lieutenant governor, he assumed the governorship on Oct. 3, 1953, when Earl Warren resigned that post to become chief justice of the United States.
Goodwin Knight met his bride-to-be at a television station on May 20, 1951. A leader of the American Legion Auxiliary, she sold him a paper poppy, an item used in fundraising.
Her first husband, a lieutenant in the Air Force, had been killed in action in Europe in 1944.
Goodwin Knight’s first wife died of a heart attack in 1952. Later that year, remembering his meeting the war widow a year earlier, he later telephoned her mother, whom he had known through her activities in the Republican party, to ask if she would arrange a date.
In May of 1953, Lt. Governor Knight and Mrs. Carlson were leaders of that year’s effort to raise funds for rehabilitation of hospitalized soldiers in the Korean War through the sale of paper poppies at street corners.
The former governor died in 1970 at the age of 73. At the burial at Hollywood Memorial Park, on May 25, his widow placed a paper poppy on his casket, as she softly said, “goodbye.”
A UPI photograph taken at the burial, published in the Los Angeles Times, depicted Virginia Knight holding the hand of Goodwin Knight’s grandson, Jonathan Weedman, then 10. He is now a senior vice president at Wells Fargo.
Known for her beauty, Virginia Knight’s appearance was often likened to that of actress Vivien Leigh.
She is reputed to have authored more than 300 poems. One of them, “Our Guiding Light,” was recited three years in a row at Memorial Day ceremonies, held at the Coliseum.
Milton Pollard, a close friend of Goodwin Knight and his business partner in later years, is quoted in an oral history project as telling an interviewer that Virginia Knight caused her husband to broaden his perspectives, saying:
“He expanded his mind and his thinking, his judgments and everything else. Yes, I think she was a tremendous influence on him.”
The former first lady, who was born Oct. 12, 1918, put stock in astrology. She exemplified an attribute associated with those born under sign of Libra, being a lover of beauty.
She personally redecorated the Executive Mansion.
Services will be private, Weedman said yesterday.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company