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Cecil Underwood, 1956
(R) Tyler County
Elected governor in 1956

Cecil Harland Underwood


November 5, 1922 - November 24, 2008
Cecil Underwood, 1996
(R) Cabell County
Elected governor in 1996
Compiled by the West Virginia State Archives
Cecil Harland Underwood was born in Joseph's Mills, Tyler County. He graduated from Tyler County High School, Salem College, and West Virginia University. During World War II, Underwood served in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps. He taught high school in St. Marys, Pleasants County, from 1943 to 1946 and at Marietta College from 1946 to 1950. For the next six years, he held the position of vice president of public relations at Salem College. Underwood first ventured into politics in 1944 at age twenty-two with his election to the House of Delegates. He retained this seat until 1956, serving as house minority floor leader in 1949, 1951, 1953, and 1955. In 1957, he became the youngest governor in the history of the state and the first Republican governor in twenty-four years.

In his first term as governor, Underwood worked to improve roads and assist those impoverished by rapid technological changes, particularly the mechanization of the coal industry. His administration developed a temporary employment program to provide relief to poor families. In Underwood's first year in office, the legislature created the Mental Health Department. He also promoted a sweeping revision of the mining laws and the need for local support of public schools.

Underwood was defeated for the United States Senate in 1960 and for governor in 1964 and 1976. He lost the Republican nomination for governor in 1968. After leaving office, Underwood worked for Island Creek Coal Company and Monsanto Chemical Company and formed a land development company. He was named president of Bethany College in 1972 and was formally appointed on September 12, 1973. Later, he became involved with the Software Valley Corporation in Morgantown and taught political science at Marshall University.

In 1996, Underwood defeated Democrat Charlotte Pritt to become the state's oldest governor, forty years after being the state's youngest executive. In a 2000 bid for re-election, he was defeated by Bob Wise. Cecil Harland Underwood died in Charleston on November 24, 2008.

Inaugural Address (1957)
Inaugural Address (1997)

Audio/Video Clips
First Term:
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Second Term:
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Finding Aid, Cecil H. Underwood Collection (Ar1803)
Finding Aid, Cecil H. Underwood Photograph Collection (Ph87-124)
Finding Aid, Cecil H. Underwood Gubernatorial Papers (1997-2001)


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