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 Secretaries of State 1901-2000

Charles W. Swisher (R)


Charles Swisher was born in Marion County in 1856. Not much is known about Swisher's early life.

He was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1901-1902 and served in the 11 District seat of the State Senate from 1903-1905.

In 1905 he became the thirteenth Secretary of State. He served until 1909.

Stuart F. Reed (R)


Stuart Reed was born near Philippi in Barbour County in 1866. He was schooled at Fairmont State Normal School in 1885 and attended the school of Law at West Virginia University. In 1889 during his final year at WVU he founded and edited the school's daily student newspaper, The Athenaeum.

Upon graduation Reed was editor of the Telegram in Clarksburg; served as Postmaster of Clarksburg and served in the State Senate from 1895-1898. He was also the president on the board of trustees at what is today, Alderson Broaddus College from 1901-1908.

Stuart Reed served as the fourteenth Secretary of State from 1909-1917. Reed served as the first president of the National Association of Secretaries of State from 1915-1917.

After serving as Secretary of State, Reed was elected to West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and served there until 1925. While in Congress, Reed served as Chairman on the Committee of Expenditures in the Department of Justice. Upon leaving public office he remained in Washington D.C. and engaged in literary pursuits until his death.

Reed was very active in the Freemasons and was a member of the Knights Templar, Shriners, Elks and Woodmen. He died on June 3rd, 1935 and is buried in the Elkview Masonic Cemetery in Clarksburg, WV.

Houston G. Young (R)


Houston Young was born in Harrison County. Information is not readily available about his early or post public service life.

He served as the fifteenth Secretary of State from 1917-1925. Young briefly served as Secretary of the Capitol Complex Planning Commission while serving as Secretary of State.

He was a candidate for the 6th Congressional District of the House of Representatives upon leaving the Secretary of State's office but was unsuccessful.

He is buried at Sunset Memorial Park in Charleston, West Virginia.

George W. Sharp (R)


George Sharp served as the sixteenth Secretary of State from 1925-1933.

Sharp was from Pocahontas County. After leaving office Sharp served as chair of the Pocahontas Republican Party from 1940-1945.

For more information about Secretary Sharp, click here.

William S. O'Brien (D)


William O'Brien was born in 1862 at Audra in Philippi in Barbour County and resided in Upshur County. He attended common schools including the Weston Academy and West Virginia University. Before going to law school and becoming involved in politics he worked on farms, brickyards, on public works projects and also taught school.

He graduated from the law school at WVU in 1891 and was admitted to the bar the same year. O'Brien was a lawyer by profession and had a practice in Buckhannon. He also served as a captain in the West Virginia National Guard in 1894 and 1895. O'Brien was elected to serve as a state circuit judge for the 12th circuit district from 1913-1920. He was also elected to the 3rd West Virginia Congressional District to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1927 to 1929.

William O'Brien was elected as the seventeenth Secretary of State in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. He served in that capacity until his death.

He was the father of Daniel Pitt O'Brien, who became Secretary of State after his father's passing. The eldest O'Brien was a member of the Freemasons, Knights Templar and the Knights of Pythias. O'Brien died in Buckhannon on August 10th 1948 and is buried in the Heavner Cemetery located in Buckhannon, West Virginia.

Daniel Pitt O'Brien (D)


Daniel O'Brien was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia in 1900. He was the son of the seventeenth Secretary of State William O'Brien. He attended West Virginia Wesleyan College.

D. Pitt O'Brien served in the US Army during both World Wars, was a school teacher, and served as an assistant under his father in the Secretary of State's office.

O'Brien was elected as the eighteenth Secretary of State in 1948 and again in 1956. He died suddenly in 1957 during the first year of his second term.

He was a member of the American Legion, Freemasons and the Elks.

Helen F. Holt (R)


Helen Holt was appointed as the nineteenth Secretary of State by Governor Cecil Underwood after the sudden passing of D. Pitt O'Brien. She became the first female to serve as Secretary of State and the first female to serve on the West Virginia Board of Public Works.

Before being appointed as Secretary of State, Holt was a member of the faculty at Greenbrier College. She was also previously appointed to fill her husband's House of Delegates seat for his unexpired term in the state legislature shortly after his death in 1955.

She was the widow to the late Rush Holt Sr., a former state legislator, U.S. Congressman and was one of the youngest individuals elected to the U.S. Senate at age twenty nine.

In 1960, Helen Holt left West Virginia to accept a special assistant position with the Federal Housing Administration in Washington D.C. She worked on initiating a program to construct nursing homes around the nation. She served in senior capacities in the Federal Housing Administration within the Department of Housing and Urban Development throughout her career. Holt's early research led to the first federal programs for nursing homes and care for the elderly.

Holt served as president of the West Virginia State Society of Washington D.C. in 1965 and 1966. She served as president of the Executive Women in Government Organization in 1982. Holt is also an Emeritus Trustee at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Helen's son, Rush Holt Jr., is currently serving as a U.S. Congressman in New Jersey. He introduced successful legislation that required electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail. The bill was entitled the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003. Helen Holt currently resides in Washington D.C.

Joe F. Burdett (D)


Joe Burdett was elected as the twentieth Secretary of State in 1958 and served until 1965.

Robert D. Bailey, Jr. (D)


Robert Bailey was born in Baileysville, Wyoming County in 1912. Bailey attended Concord College and received his law degree from Washington and Lee University.

During World War II, Bailey served in the U.S. Army in the European Theater. He was admitted to the bar in 1934 and inherited into his father's law practice in Pineville. Bailey also had business involvement with the Castle Rock Bank, Independent Herald newspaper, Pineville Gas Company and the WWYO Radio Station.

His first stint in public office came when he was elected as the Prosecutor of Wyoming County in 1941 and served until 1961.

He was appointed as the twenty-first Secretary of State on May 17th, 1965 to fill an unexpired term and was elected to a full term in 1966. He served until 1969.

Upon leaving office Bailey went back to the private sector and to his law practice and never again sought elected public office. He passed away in 1992.

John D. Rockefeller, IV (D)


John D. Rockefeller was born in New York City in 1937. Rockefeller graduated from Harvard in 1961. He moved to West Virginia in 1964 as a VISTA volunteer in the small coal town of Emmons. He became a permanent resident of our state soon thereafter. Rockefeller was first elected to public office in 1966 to the West Virginia House of Delegates.

He was elected as the twenty-second Secretary of State in 1969 and served in the capacity until 1972.

Upon leaving office Rockefeller served as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College until 1976.

In 1976 Rockefeller was elected as the Governor of West Virginia and was re-elected in 1980.

Rockefeller was elected to the United States Senate in 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002 and most recently in 2008. Since becoming a senator Rockefeller has served in many leadership roles and is currently the Chairman of the Commerce Committee.

Rockefeller married the daughter of former Illinois Senator Charles Percy, Sharon Percy Rockefeller. They have four children and six grand children.

Edgar F. Heiskell, III (R)


Edgar Heiskell was elected as the twenty-third Secretary of State in 1972 and served until 1975.

James R. McCartney (R)


James McCartney was appointed as the twenty-fourth Secretary of State in 1975 and served until 1977.

A. James Manchin (D)


A. James Manchin was elected as the twenty-fifth Secretary of State in 1976 and served until 1985.

Ken Hechler (D)


Ken Hechler was elected as the twenty-sixth Secretary of State in 1984 and served until 2001.

*If you have historical information regarding any past West Virginia Secretary of State and would like to share it with our office please contact our office at: (304) 558-6000.