Bob Powell Published

March 26, 1918: Governor William Marland Born in Illinois


Governor William Marland was born in Illinois on March 26, 1918. When he was seven, his family moved to Wyoming County. After graduating from WVU Law School, he quickly moved up the political ranks. He was appointed state attorney general and, in 1952, was elected governor at age 34.

Marland, a Democrat, was a political maverick. One of his first moves as governor was to propose a ten-cents-per-ton severance tax on natural resources. Although the legislature was controlled by fellow Democrats, it was dominated by coal industry interests. As such, legislators repeatedly rejected his severance tax proposals. Then, after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, he ordered the immediate integration of state schools.

These efforts rubbed some politicians the wrong way. And, personally, his abrupt manner and growing problems with alcohol made matters worse. After leaving the governor’s office, he lacked the backing of leading state Democrats. He twice lost campaigns for the U.S. Senate and ended up in Chicago, where, in 1962, he was discovered driving a taxi. In 1965, on the verge of mounting a political comeback, Marland died of cancer at age 47.