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West Virginia's Governors
Inaugural Addresses

In recognition of the January 15, 2001 inauguration of Bob Wise, West Virginia Archives and History has made available the inaugural addresses of West Virginia's governors.

Twenty-eight of the thirty individuals who have served as governor are represented. Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. delivered three inaugural speeches, while Governors Underwood, Rockefeller, and Caperton each gave two. The state's second governor, Daniel D. T. Farnsworth, who only served six days in office, did not deliver an address, nor did his successor, William E. Stevenson. John J. Jacob, who was elected to both a two-year and a four-year term, only delivered one inaugural speech.

Some of the common themes included in the addresses relate to agriculture, mining, manufacturing, education and transportation. Nearly all the governors addressed maximization of the state's rich resources, and pledged impartiality in their decisions. Speaking to the duties incumbent upon him as an elected official, West Virginia's twelfth governor, William M. O. Dawson, stated that he would constantly endeavor to discharge his duties "with malice toward none and with justice to all, and so as to promote the public welfare and preserve the blessings of liberty to all the people. A public office is a public trust, and was created, not for the benefit of the office-holder, but for the benefit of the people." Many of the governors issued a call to the people, regardless of their political affiliation, to work for the good of the state. John B. Jackson, who assumed office in 1881, said, "It is incumbent upon us as one body of citizens, in a very marked sense to create and perpetuate the prosperity of the State, as a community having a heritage from the past to maintain, and large prospective interests in the future to extend and improve."

Issues of taxation became more frequent in the twentieth century, as government services expanded. Some of the addresses reflected national concerns, such as the 1876 presidential election, ratification of the 19th Amendment, World War II and the Cold War. As might be expected, the inaugural address of West Virginia's first governor, Arthur I. Boreman, focused on the justification for the separation from Virginia in the midst of the Civil War.

Particularly striking are the omissions in the speeches of two governors. Henry D. Hatfield, who was elected in the midst of the bitter Paint Creek/Cabin Creek strike, made no mention of the dispute in his address, but eight days later he initiated negotiations between labor and management in an effort to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict. William D. Marland, who three days after taking office requested passage of a severance tax bill, made no mention of this controversial proposal in his inaugural address.

Most of the governors spoke eloquently of their hopes for the future. As the twentieth century began, West Virginia's newly elected governor, A. B. White, noted poignantly, "We enter the new century with high hopes and brilliant prospects. My earnest desire is that during the coming four years...happiness and prosperity may abide at every West Virginian's hearthstone."

1. Arthur Ingram Boreman
2. Daniel Duane Tompkins Farnsworth
3. William Erskine Stevenson
4. John Jeremiah Jacob
5. Henry Mason Mathews
6. Jacob Beeson Jackson
7. Emanuel Willis Wilson
8. Aretas Brooks Fleming
9. William Alexander MacCorkle
10. George Wesley Atkinson
11. Albert Blakeslee White
12. William Mercer Owens Dawson
13. William Ellsworth Glasscock
14. Henry Drury Hatfield
15. John Jacob Cornwell
16. Ephraim Franklin Morgan
17. Howard Mason Gore
18. William Gustavus Conley
19. Herman Guy Kump
20. Homer Adams Holt
21. Matthew Mansfield Neely
22. Clarence Watson Meadows
23. Okey Leonidas Patteson
24. William Casey Marland
25. Cecil Harland Underwood
26. William Wallace Barron
27. Hulett Carlson Smith
28. Arch Alfred Moore, Jr.  1969  1973
29. John D. Rockefeller IV  1977  1981
30. Arch Alfred Moore, Jr.
31. William Gaston Caperton III  1989 1993
32. Cecil Harland Underwood
33. Robert E. Wise, Jr.
34. Joe Manchin III   2005  2009

Biographies of West Virginia's Governors

West Virginia History Center

West Virginia Archives and History