Hulett Carlson Smith was born in Beckley, the son of the city's mayor and future United States Representative Joe L. Smith. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School, Beckley College, and the Wharton School of Finance and Administration of the University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation, Smith worked in the insurance business and at a family-owned radio station. During World War II, he rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy. After the war, Smith became president of the Home Insurance Agency and Investment Securities Inc. in Beckley. In 1947, Governor Clarence Meadows appointed him to the state aeronautics agency, on which he served for twelve years. From 1956 to 1961, he chaired the state Democratic Executive Committee. Smith lost the 1960 Democratic nomination for governor but won the office in 1964.
During Smith's term, the legislature enacted measures to control air and stream pollution and protect human rights, as well as passing some of the state's first strip mining legislation. In his first year as governor, Smith signed into law a bill repealing the death penalty. He instigated a "government- to-the-people" program that enabled citizens to interact with public officials. The most significant change in state government was the passage of the Modern Budget Amendment, making the governor responsible for developing the state budget.
After leaving office, Smith returned to his insurance agency in Beckley and assumed duties as secretary-treasurer of two area hospitals. In retirement, he became an outspoken advocate for the environment. He later served on the National Council for Revision of State Constitutions, the Judicial Inquiry Commission, and as a director of First Lady Rosalyn Carter's Friendship Force. Smith died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 15, 2012.
Selected Photographs of Hulett Smith
Gubernatorial Papers Finding Aid
West Virginia's Governors
West Virginia History Center