January 18, 1937: Homer Holt Becomes W.Va.'s 20th Governor

Jan 18, 2018

Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On January 18, 1937, Democrat Homer Holt became the state’s 20th governor. Just four years earlier, the Lewisburg native had been swept into statewide office as attorney general in a Democratic wave that ended the Republicans’ long-standing domination of West Virginia politics. He was only 34 at the time.

Becoming attorney general during the darkest days of the Great Depression, he worked with Governor H. Guy Kump to shore up the state’s finances.

He and Kump represented the more conservative “statehouse” faction of the Democratic Party, as opposed to U.S. Senator Matthew Neely, a New Deal liberal who had the backing of labor.

In 1936, Holt won a landslide and succeeded Kump as governor. Holt quickly made enemies of the unions, which cost him politically. In 1940, Neely defeated Holt’s preferred candidate to become the next governor.

After leaving office, Holt practiced law in Charleston before moving to New York to become general counsel and then a vice president and director for Union Carbide. In 1956, he bolted the Democratic Party to support Republican Cecil Underwood for governor. Homer Holt died in Charleston in 1976 at age 77.