Robert Ellsworth “Bob” Wise Jr. was born in Washington, DC, and graduated from Duke University and Tulane University Law School. In 1980, the political newcomer ran for a seat in the West Virginia Senate, defeating then Senate President William T. Brotherton Jr. (D-Kanawha) in the primary election and winning the general election. In 1982, he defeated another incumbent, Mick Staton, for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. Wise went on to serve nine terms in the House from 1983 to 2001. Bob Wise won the governorship in 2000 in a victory over incumbent Cecil Underwood.
As governor, Wise focused on education and economic development. Through his efforts, the PROMISE Scholarship program was funded with lottery revenue, and video poker machines were outlawed. Among his other accomplishments were an increase in enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program and creation of a sales tax holiday for back-to-school purchases. Faced with a nationwide economic recession, Wise imposed several state government spending cuts to balance the budget.
During his gubernatorial term, Bob Wise chaired the Southern Governors Association, National Governors Association Committee on Natural Resources and the Southern States Energy Board. Wise decided not to run for re-election in 2004 following admission in 2003 of marital infidelity.
Since 2005, Wise has been president of the Alliance for Excellent Education based in Washington, DC. He also currently chairs the board of directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Gubernatorial Papers Finding Aid (2001-2005)
West Virginia's Governors
West Virginia History Center