Helen F. Holt

Charleston Gazette
December 5, 1957

Mrs. Holt Takes Secretary Post

Resigns College Office

Mrs. Helen F. Holt of Lewisburg was sworn in yesterday as secretary of state - becoming the first woman in West Virginia history to hold a high statewide office.

She succeeds D. Pitt O'Brien, who died last Friday of a heart ailment after serving as secretary or assistant to his father since the early 1930s.

The pretty Greenbrier Woman's College professor quickly settled all doubts as to her future plans. Within minutes after the swearing-in at 5:17 p. m., she said she'll run for re-election next year.

The term to which Mrs. Holt was named by Gov. Underwood will run only until the general election next November.

She is the widow of Rush D. Holt of Weston, who was the youngest person ever elected to the U. S. Senate. It was while he was serving his lone term in Congress that he met and married her.

Holt, a longtime Democrat, bolted the party in 1950 to run on the Republican ticket for Congress in the Third District. He was unsuccessful, as he was when he sought the governorship in 1952 also as a Republican.

Mrs. Holt came into statewide focus while touring the state with her husband in 1952, and she filled out his unexpired term in the House of Delegates from 1955 to 1957. Holt served several terms in the Legislature.

The new secretary of state did not seek re-election to the House of Delegates last year, choosing instead to run for delegate to the Republican National Convention. She led the ticket for delegate-at-large, and it was her popularity then that turned many Republicans in her direction after O'Brien died.

Mrs. Holt is looked upon as a person who can strengthen the Republican party's chances in the primary and general election next year.

Her appointment as secretary of state cuts the Democratic majority on the powerful Board of Public Works from 5-2 to 4-3. O'Brien was a Democrat, and she, like Underwood, a Republican.

In March 1955 Mrs. Holt went to the Lewisburg girls school as science instructor. A native of Cridley, Ill., she holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern University.

President Judge James B. Riley of the State Supreme Court administered the oath of office to Mrs. Holt before about 50 spectators. The man who appointed her was not among those present.

He was in New York City on an industrial development trip, where he planned to confer yesterday with industrialists and investment bankers about the possibilities of obtaining new plants for West Virginia.

Mrs. Holt, wearing a black and white checked suit and red velvet hat, posed for photographers with her 9-year-old son, Rush Jr.

She was driven to Charleston in a state police car to be sworn in. She planned to return home last night, saying it would take a day or two at least to wind up her teaching duties. She plans to resign from the Greenbrier faculty.

When newsmen asked Mrs. Holt her age, an item of interest omitted from the biological sketch handed out by the Governor's office earlier, she smiled and replied:

"I'm older than the Governor."

Underwood is 35, the youngest Governor West Virginia ever has had.

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