William Gustavus Conley was born on a farm near Kingwood, Preston County. He taught school from 1886 to 1891, at which time he was elected Preston County superintendent of free schools. After graduating from West Virginia University in 1893, Conley opened a law practice in Parsons, Tucker County. He became Tucker County prosecuting attorney in 1897 and mayor of Parsons in 1901. During this time, he founded and edited the Parsons Advocate newspaper. Conley returned to Kingwood and served as mayor from 1906 to 1908, at which time he was appointed state Attorney General under Governor William Mercer Owens Dawson. He also served a full term as Attorney General under Governor William Ellsworth Glasscock. From 1924 to 1929, he was a member of the state board of education.
During the Conley administration, the legislature established a public unemployment bureau, library commission, bridge commission, water commission, athletic commission, and raised taxes to pay for the main building of the new state capitol. Also, a new West Virginia Code was approved. Conley's time in office was clouded by the beginning of the Great Depression and a devastating drought.
After leaving office, Conley returned to his Charleston law practice. He died in Charleston in 1940.
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