November 5, 1949: Lawyer T. C. Townsend Dies in Charleston

Thomas Chasteene Townsend (1877-1949)

Lawyer T. C. Townsend died in Charleston on November 5, 1949, at age 72. As a young man, he mined coal and saved up enough to attend West Virginia University. He opened a law practice in Fayetteville in 1903 and later served as Kanawha County prosecuting attorney. He also served twice as state tax commissioner, in which capacity he tried to change the state’s tax structure and shift the burden away from low-income families.

In 1921, Townsend was hired by the United Mine Workers of America to defend miners and union leaders for their part in the March on Logan and the Battle of Blair Mountain. Townsend’s successful defense of Bill Blizzard and other UMWA leaders garnered prestige and secured his solid standing with the miners’ union for the rest of his life.

In 1932, T. C. Townsend ran for governor as a Republican and received strong support from labor. However, the Great Depression had tarnished the Republican Party’s reputation both nationally and in West Virginia. Townsend lost to H. Guy Kump in the same Democratic landslide that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt into the White House.