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Want to learn another language? The Library of Virginia’s archival collections could be a place to start! Virginians learn new languages for a variety of reasons—including military service, participation in trade missions, for advanced study, and as a way to help navigate as a new Virginian—and evidence of their study is contained in the Library’s holdings.


A. Linwood Holton Papers, 1943-1970, Accession 31535

On 4 July 1942, while still a student at Washington and Lee University, future Virginia governor A. Linwood Holton enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was eventually assigned to serve on submarines during World War II. He was serving on a relief crew in Pearl Harbor when the war ended. He was transferred to Guam and by September 1945 to Sasebo, Japan, to assist with demilitarization efforts. During this time he interacted with Japanese sailors who served on submarines. He returned to Pearl Harbor and then moved to Washington, D.C., before he was discharged in August 1946. His Japanese language lessons are among the personal papers that he donated to the Library of Virginia in 1974.[1]

Donald E. Croll Papers, 1942-1945, Accession 50365.

Donald Eugene Croll, a sales clerk in Shawnee, Kansas, enlisted in the U.S. military at Fort Leavenworth in March 1942. During World War II, he served as a Technician Fifth Grade with the 259th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. Eighteen months after his enlistment he arrived in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. The following year, he was transferred to Indonesia for three months. In January 1945 he arrived on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. He was separated from his unit at Fort Logan on 5 December 1945. The papers that his wife Charlotte donated to the Library of Virginia in 2012 concerning his military service include Visayan language lessons, probably from his brief time in Leyte.[2]

Trade Missions

Gov. George F. Allen embarked on his third trade mission as governor on 10 May 1996. The delegation remained in Japan for a week before traveling to Hong Kong and South Korea. Gov. Allen and his delegation of political and business leaders and economic developers promoted Virginia exports and investments in Virginia while First Lady Susan Allen promoted Virginia tourism. Among the participants in the trade mission was Christopher J. Bright, who served as the Assistant Secretary of Trade and Commerce from 1994 to 1998.  In 2019, Bright donated the briefing materials from this trade mission, as well as several others, to the Library of Virginia.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Trade Mission Records, 1995-1997, Accession 52606, “Trade Mission Japan, Christopher J. Bright, May 10-17, 1996” binder

Among the itineraries, information about Japan, and background information on the companies and leaders is a list of greetings in both Japanese and English, as well as a pamphlet concerning protocols that was supplied by the Japan-Virginia Society in English and Japanese.[3]

Programs for High School Students

On 23 May 1985, the Virginia Department of Education voted to approve the concept of the Governor’s Academy for Foreign Language, to “give an opportunity for advanced-level students to have a highly challenging, extended period, immersion experience in using the language that they have studied.” The program was open to “advanced level foreign language students who have achieved well during their first two years of study and who demonstrate good aptitude and enthusiasm for this endeavor.”[4] The program began in 1986 with a French Academy that was held at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton. With the support of Governor Gerald Baliles, German, Spanish, and Asian Studies were added the following year. In 1988, the program added Latin Studies and Russian Studies. The Asian Languages/Studies Academy required coursework in any foreign language and sought to introduce participants to languages that were not usually a part of high school curricula. George Mason University was the first host of this academy in the summer of 1987, and participants chose a focus in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese language and culture through three weeks of classes, group activities, and field trips. In 1990, the Asian Studies Academy was restructured and became the Japanese Language Academy, which is now hosted by Randolph-Macon College. The Executive Papers of Gov. Gerald Baliles include information on the first Asian Studies academies, as well as a workbook for the study of Korean language and culture from the 1989 Academy.[5]

Hover on the above image to access the pdf controls.

Papers of Kuy So, 1981-1983

Virginia Department of the Treasury, Unclaimed Property, Accession 52014, Box 4, Lot 410 (250078), Library of Virginia

Kuy So was born in 1920 in Battambang, Cambodia. From 1975 until their defeat in 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge, created enormous suffering for many Cambodians—overwork, execution, and disease killed a fifth of the population. Five hundred thousand Cambodians fled to Thailand, and many ultimately settled in Australia, Canada, France, or the United States. In 1981, Kuy So arrived in Thailand from Cambodia. Two years later, he arrived at Richmond International Airport and eventually settled in Long Beach, California, which had one of the largest Cambodian populations in the world. These few English to Khmer phrases were among papers concerning his resettlement that he left in a bank vault in Richmond and are now a part of the Virginia Department of the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property files at the Library of Virginia. More information on Kuy So is available in an earlier blog post.[6]

-Cara Griggs, Reference Archivist


[1] A. Linwood Holton, Opportunity Time (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 20-27; A. Linwood Holton Papers, 1943-1970, Accession 31535, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

[2] Donald E. Croll Papers, 1942-1945, Accession 50365, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA; Donald Eugene Croll Obituary, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 11 July 2004, B-8; U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line] (Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2005), Entry for Donald E. Croll.

[3] Michael Hardy, “Allen Hopes Trip Bags Jobs Here,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 21 March 1996, B-1; Michael Hardy, “Allen Vetoes Export Loan Fund for Small Businesses,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 7 May 1996, B-5; Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Trade Mission Records, 1995-1997, Accession 52606, “Trade Mission Japan, Christopher J. Bright, May 10-17, 1996” binder.

[4] Department of Education, State Board of Education, Volume 56, Minutes, 1985, page 58, 23 May 1985.

[5] Office of the Governor, Governor Gerald L. Baliles Executive Papers, 1986-1990, Accession 33707, Box 165, Folder 6: George Mason University; Associated Press, “Language School Spreads Culture,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 4 August 1991, E-14; “About the Virginia Governor’s Foreign Language Academies,” Virginia Japanese Academy, accessed 4 April 2021,; Department of Education, State Board of Education, Box 16, Minutes, 27-28 November 1990, Funding Recommended to be Restored in 1991-92; Department of Education, State Board of Education, Box 18, Minutes, 27-28 June 1991, Board of Education Agenda Item J, 27 June 1991, 1992-94 Budget Development.

[6] Cara Griggs, “A Refugee’s Journey from Cambodia to California: Kuy So’s Unclaimed Property File,” 15 May 2020, Accessed 7 April 2021,

Please visit our new Language Lessons exhibit based on this post in the Library of Virginia’s Local History and Genealogy Room. You can access the exhibit and our collections by making an appointment.

The We Demand: Women’s Suffrage in Virginia exhibit is available on a walk-in basis as well.

Cara Griggs

Reference Archivist

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