Born: October 12, 1918, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Died: November 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA
Married: Goodwin Knight on Auguest 2, 1954 in Beverly Hills
Maiden Name: Piergue
Virginia Piergue moved to Los Angeles in 1923 with her family. Virginia’s first husband, Lieutenant C. Lyle Carlson, was killed in Italy in 1944 during the Second World War. After Lieutenant Carlson’s death, she devoted her time to visiting veterans. So much so, that the Purple Heart Organization dubbed her the “Viola Queen.”
Virginia and Goodwin Knight were married on August 2, 1954 while he was serving as Governor of California. This was the first gubernatorial wedding in California history. Goodwin and Virginia Knight were known for their dancing. They were occasionally seen practicing through the bedroom windows of the Governor’s Mansion.
Virginia was an accomplished poet. One of her earlier poems, “Our Guiding Light” was recited at the Memorial Day ceremonies three years in a row at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.
While First Lady, Virginia began a project to research the history of the First Ladies that had lived in the Governor’s Mansion. She collected at least one photograph of each of the first ladies who lived in the mansion. As her parting gift to the mansion to honor all the resident first ladies, Mrs. Knight framed their photographs and mounted them in the front hall. She believed that one day the mansion would be a museum and that people would want to know about the important role of the Governors’ wives.
During her time in the mansion, Mrs. Knight remodeled the kitchen with a Scandinavian theme, using wallpaper with a windmill design and a copper hood above the stove colored Danish blue. In the mansion, she left behind dozens of teapot shaped lamps.
Virginia Knight saw both of her predictions come true as the historical significance of the Governor’s Mansion and the First Ladies of California are recognized today.
Father: Lawrence Piergue
Mother: Mrs. Emma Hershberger
Stepfather: E.B. Hershberger
Husband: Goodwin J. Knight
Virgina was named the honorary poet laureate of Delaware by Governor J. Caleb Boggs
Books and Articles:
Cook and LaDue, The First Ladies of California, Xlibris Corporation, 2007
Born 100 Years Ago Today Goodwin J. Knight: From Los Angeles Judge to California Governor. Metropolitan News Enterprise, December 9, 1996,
Gov. Knight will Wed Widow, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1954
Gov. Knight Mrs. Carlson Take Vows, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1954
Don Juan in Heaven, Time Magazine, May 30, 1955
Names Make News, Time Magazine, May 16, 1955Websites: Stewards of the Mansion: transcript of a tour of the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park. Narrated by First Lady Maria Shriver. California State Parks, 2004. Oral History Interviews with Goodwin Knight, Virginia Knight and Others, Goodwin Knight-Edmond G. Brown, Sr. Era Oral History Project. Berkeley, California: University of California, 1987.