John Davison Rockefeller, IV was born in New York City, the great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and the nephew of New York Governor and United States Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. After attending Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard University, the International Christian University, and Yale University, he was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps in 1961. He worked for a brief time in the United States Department of Far Eastern Affairs. Rockefeller first came to West Virginia in 1964. As part of the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), he volunteered as a social worker at Emmons, Boone County. In 1966, Rockefeller broke from his family's long tradition of Republican loyalty and ran successfully for the House of Delegates as a Democrat. Two years later, he was elected Secretary of State. After losing the 1972 gubernatorial election to incumbent Arch Moore, Rockefeller accepted the presidency of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, Upshur County. In the 1976 gubernatorial election, he defeated former Republican Governor Cecil Underwood.
As governor, Rockefeller promoted the state's energy resources and chaired the President's Commission on Coal. He cut the size of state government and dealt with the issues of inflation, fuel shortages, a lengthy coal strike, floods, and the effects of two severe winters. The legislature established the Department of Corrections, Department of Health, Department of Culture and History, and the Office of Economic and Community Development. The Rockefeller administration constructed a record number of secondary roads.
In 1984, Rockefeller was elected to the United States Senate. He was re-elected in 1990 and 1996. In the Senate, he has been active with West Virginia's trade delegation to Japan, a supporter of health care reform, and an advocate for veterans' benefits. In 2013, he announced he would not run for re-election in 2014.
Gubernatorial Papers Finding Aid (1977-1985)
West Virginia's Governors
West Virginia History Center