Chapman Revercomb

Charleston Daily Mail
February 5, 1975

Ex-Senator Chapman Revercomb: We're Living Too High

By Adrian Gwin Of The Daily Mail Staff

People are spending too much money and living too high for their own good, according to Chapman Revercomb.

However, he doesn't predict anything because he isn't a seer. He's a former United States Senator, having served two terms from 1943 to 1949 and from 1957 to 1959. He will be 80 years old on July 20, and the years give him the advantage of experience.

"I can't see what the country will face in the future, but we're up against it," he said. "We've all got to tighten our belts, and we can do it."

He still goes to his office in the Kanawha Valley Bank building almost daily.

"I gave up my law practice seven years ago when I had a stroke," he said, not apologizing for his infirmities but only by way of explanation.

"It affected my hearing, my sight, and my physical stability, so I gave up the active law practice, but I still come down to the office to take care of my correspondence."

His shock of white hair was neatly combed. His business suit was impeccable and his modulated but deep and reverb[e]rating voice bespoke the man who could command attention with a word.

There was a light in his eyes as of old. He could see but dimly.

We reminded him that Barry Goldwater recently took Sen. Robert Byrd to task for his leadership in the Senate.

"I think Mr. Goldwater got his toes stepped on and was hollering 'ouch!' Mr. Byrd was my opponent, but he has achieved a very high position in the Senate.

"Now on this business of the Kanawha County books, and the KKK coming into the area - there are things in some of those books that I wouldn't have put in them, but I think they've gone about it in the wrong way.

"I don't think a thing of the KKK, never had anything to do with it in any way, shape or form. And it is not a step in the right direction."

Revercomb lives at 917 Edgewood Drive. He and Mrs. Revercomb, the former Sarah Hughes of Ashland, Va., have four children and 11 grandchildren.

"Bill, our oldest boy, is practicing medicine in Charleston. George is a judge of a federal court in Washington. Anne is now Mrs. N. R. Graney of Mt. Hope, and the fourth is James, in business in Roanoke Va."

Revercomb opened his office in Charleston in 1922, after beginning law practice in old Virginia. "I started in Covington, Va. in practice with my father," he said, leaning back in his chair.

"And when I came to Charleston I went in with Arthur Koontz, Frank Hurlbutt and Pat Koontz.

In a measured tone he recalled, "I left that firm in 1936 and went out on my own to practice. Came to this building then, and it was a bad year to go into business for yourself, but I expanded and grew, and the practice of law has been a satisfaction to me."

"I've always worked hard and tried to attend to the business of my clients," he said.

Associates who knew him in his days of active law practice and campaigning for the U. S. Senate recall that he was a whirlwind and a dynamo of energy and continuity.

"When we were on the road all across West Virginia, campaigning, he was the most indefatigable man you ever saw," one recalled.

"He could go from early morning to late at night, one stop after another and speaking to one group and another, travel several hours in the car and then speak to another group, and seem as fresh as when he started."

"Yes, I've practiced before all the courts locally and before the Supreme Court of the United States on occasion," he said, a spark of the old fire lighting his eyes.

"My most interesting case? Why, perhaps that was when I represented The Dravo Contracting Co.

["]It built the locks and dams up and down the river here, and the case was whether or not the state could tax it. We argued that it was an instrument of the federal government and could not be taxed, and it went on for two years. We were before the Supreme Court with that one. We lost it, but it was one of the more interesting cases I tried."

"Yes, civil law was my great practice," he said, in answer to a question, "I did on occasion, try a criminal case, but only rarely."

When he was in the Senate in the World War II years and after, what were his interests?

"I took an active part in the debate on the United Nations," he said. "The charter for the U. N. was originally written so that the U. N. could call up troops of member nations without consulting anyone.

"I opposed that. It is my firm belief that this country must remain sovereign over its own troops. That is the law today."

He was also instrumental in getting the appropriation for I-77 for West Virginia. "Sen. McCarron had adjourned the appropriations committee meeting, and I called him and asked to have it meet again and put in that appropriation for the Charleston interstate. He did, and we got the $3 million appropriation through the committee, and the road is under construction today, though that was a long time ago."

Right after the war, he accepted the chairmanship of the Public Works committee, which was an honor no other first-term senator had ever been offered. "I resigned from the committee on Military Affairs to devote my time to that," he said.

"Yes, I miss the hurley-burley of the Senate; I enjoyed it, and enjoyed practicing law, too, but we can't stop because we're slowed down. I keep going by keeping going."

He lighted a cigarette-sized little cigar with a wooden match and turned toward the view of the town out his eighth-floor window.

"Yes, things are changing, and rightly so. We must not stagnate. We must always look ahead."

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