January 16, 1989: Gaston Caperton Sworn in as Governor

Gaston Caperton

Gaston Caperton—our state’s 31st governor—was sworn into office on January 16, 1989. He was born in Charleston in 1940 and eventually worked at his father’s insurance company, where he rose to president.

By the late 1980s, the McDonough-Caperton Insurance Group was one of the nation’s largest privately owned insurance companies.

Although he’d campaigned for fellow Democrats before, he’d never run for office prior to challenging incumbent Governor Arch Moore in 1988. The state was in a down time due to a long economic recession, and Caperton soundly defeated Moore to become governor.

After being sworn in, he appointed a bipartisan team to review the state’s financial situation. The task force discovered the state faced nearly $400 million in immediate liabilities and a potential $4 billion shortfall in its teacher pension and workers’ compensation systems. At Caperton’s urging, the legislature enacted a major reorganization of state government, new ethics legislation, and the largest tax increase in state history.

During Gaston Caperton’s eight years as governor, West Virginia’s economic outlook improved significantly. He’s also remembered for introducing new technologies into education and spurring new school construction.