October 27, 1879: W. Va. Attorney General Howard Lee Born in Wirt County

Oct 27, 2017

Photo of Howard Lee from a pamphlet published during his 1969 campaign for mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C.
Credit Wikimedia commons / North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

West Virginia Attorney General Howard B. Lee was born in Wirt County on October 27, 1879. After graduating from Marshall College, now Marshall University, Lee taught school in Putnam County. Then, while studying law at Washington and Lee University, he was elected as a Republican to the West Virginia Legislature.

Lee began his law practice in Bluefield in 1909 and served as Mercer County prosecuting attorney for eight years. He was elected state attorney general in 1924 and served for eight challenging, eventful years. His term saw the impeachment of a state auditor for embezzlement, the lawlessness and violence of Prohibition, and continued labor troubles in the southern coalfields. Lee later practiced law in Charleston until retiring in 1943.

Lee wrote a dozen books, the most memorable being Bloodletting in Appalachia, published in 1969. In this book, he drew on his personal experiences to create one of the first published histories about the West Virginia Mine Wars. Lee later said of the book, “It’s the most horrifying story you’ve ever read. Unfortunately, every word of it is true.”

Howard B. Lee died in 1985 at age 105.