Matthew W. Paxton Jr., 1927–2023

Oct 1, 2023


Matthew W. Paxton Jr. died peacefully on Saturday, September 23 after a short illness at Kendal at Lexington. He was born Feb. 26, 1927, in Lexington, Virginia. He served in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1949 , was valedictorian of his class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Following graduation, he taught at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for a year. In 1951, he received an MA in Journalism from Columbia University, and then went to work for the Lynchburg News in Lynchburg, Virginia. In 1952, he returned to Lexington to become editor of the Rockbridge County News, which had been owned by his father and grandfather. In 1953, he married Mary Raine Winfree, of Lynchburg.

In 1962, Paxton and Houston Harlow, the owner and publisher of the Lexington Gazette, agreed to a merger of the two newspapers, creating The News-Gazette. He was publisher and editor of the paper until his retirement in 1994.

Paxton was instrumental in the creation of a number of local institutions. Along with a group of local people concerned with the preservation of historic buildings in Lexington, he helped form the Historic Lexington Foundation in the late 1960s, and served as president and on the board for many years. He was also involved in the formation of the Lexington Downtown Development Association, where he also served as president. He was on the committee that worked to create a continuing care retirement community in Lexington, which ultimately became Kendal at Lexington.

He was the chair of first capital campaign in 2001-2003 for the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic, now the Rockbridge Area Health Center. In 1994, he was named “Business Individual of the Year” by the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, he served on numerous boards, including the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Press Association and Stonewall Jackson Hospital (now Carilion Rockbridge Community Hospital.) He was an active member of Lexington Presbyterian Church his entire life, serving as both an elder and deacon.

He loved music, and sang in the Presbyterian Church choir for many years. He played the piano, playing up until a few months before his death.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mary Raine; four children, Matthew W. Paxton IV and his wife Lynne, William W. Paxton and his wife Carter, Macon Paxton Ivy and her husband John, Nell Paxton Cyr and her husband Larry, and daughter-in-law Margaret Ann Paxton.

Also surviving are eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A brother, Robert O. Paxton and his wife Sarah Plimpton also survive, and his first cousin and lifelong friend Sally Christian Holland.