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William C. Marland

In office
1953 – 1957
Preceded by Okey L. Patteson
Succeeded by Cecil H. Underwood

In office
1949 – 1952
Governor Okey L. Patteson
Preceded by Ira J. Partlow
Succeeded by Chauncey H. Browning, Sr.

Born March 26, 1918(1918-03-26)
Johnston City, Illinois
Died November 26, 1965 (aged 47)
Barrington, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Valerie Allen Marland
Profession Politician, Attorney
Religion United Methodist

William Casey Marland (March 26, 1918–November 26, 1965), a Democrat, was the 24th Governor of West Virginia from 1953 to 1957. He is best known for his early attempts to tax companies that depleted the state's natural resources, especially coal, as well as overseeing the generally non-violent implementation of school desegregation, during an era when other Southern governors opposed it.

Son of a mining boss, he was born in Johnston City, Illinois on March 26, 1918. His family moved to a tiny coal mining community in Wyoming County, West Virginia when he was seven. During World War II, he served as a Navy lieutenant in the Pacific theater, completing four tours. He attended the University of Alabama, where he was a star football player, and received a law degree from West Virginia University.


Term as West Virginia Attorney General and as Governor

After winning election as the state's Attorney General in 1948, he was selected to run for governor in 1952. Aged thirty-five at inauguration, he was the state's youngest governor until that time.

In his inaugural address he stated that he intended to streamline the state's government, with the ultimate goal of modernizing and improving its roads, industrial base, and educational system. With this end in mind, he began his term with a bold move to enact a severance tax on coal, but the measure was overwhelmingly rebuffed by a state legislature controlled by mining interests.

Immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court passed Brown vs. Board of Education, Marland told the press he intended to do “whatever is right and proper under the Supreme Court’s decree.” Noting that the "broad change in policy" would present "problems," he said he thought "the people of West Virginia (would) accept the decision"[1] At a meeting of Southern governors, he was the sole supporter of desegregation.[2]

A bright spot in his difficult administration occurred in October, 1956. Sharing the same interests in what would today be called "human rights issues," Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spent several days in West Virginia, visiting mine workers and spending several nights at the Governor's Mansion.[3]

Because of his support for reform measures and his firings of many patronage employees, Marland lost favor with the state's political establishment. The subsequent election of Cecil H. Underwood, the first Republican governor to serve the state in twenty-six years, is linked by several state historians to the unpopularity of many of Marland's efforts. The former governor ran in a special election for the United States Senate seat vacated by the death of Harley M. Kilgore. He lost to Republican W. Chapman Revercomb, and lost a second bid for another open Senate seat in 1958.

Following the upheavals of the 1960s and the new interest in environmentalism, Marland's seemingly radical approach ultimately became public policy. Lawrence M. Salinger, in a discussion of Marland and the historical background of the era, points out that the governor was fighting the absentee ownership of deeply entrenched corporations. Between 1883 and 1969, 21,311 miners died on the job. Not even the reforms of the New Deal, or the organization of the United Mine Workers could break the industry's grip on the legislature. But long after his death, the approach was implemented in the form of a tax of 5% or less on extractive industry, and the creation, in 1977, of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the first time federal regulations were imposed on the industry.[4]

Later years

The pressures on Marland may have contributed to the development of alcoholism. Accusations that he drank heavily in office or at inappropriate times during the day have been made by Underwood.[5]

After his second Senate loss, Marland worked as an attorney, eventually relocating to the Chicago area.

In the early 1960s, the ex-governor gave up drinking. But it was not his fate to live out his life as a private individual. A few years after his recovery, he was recognized by a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. Marland indicated that he was working as a taxi driver, and a subsequent article was released to wire services on April 13, 1965. The story received great attention in West Virginia and nationally.

Knowing that the story was about to break and concerned about damage to his family, he called a press conference and spoke candidly about his alcoholism, how he overcame it, and his reasons for driving a taxi: to hold in check a level of ambition that may have contributed to his drinking.

His fortunes dramatically changed for the better. He was soon invited to appear on Jack Paar's television talk show, and was hired to run a West Virginia horse racing concern.

But shortly thereafter, he was struck down by pancreatic cancer. He died of the disease in his Barrington, Illinois home, attended by his wife, children, other relatives, and family friends, on November 26, 1965. His widow, Valerie Allen Marland, followed him in death in 1977.


  1. ^ "School Integration in West Virginia. W. VA Compliance Pledged by Marland." Charleston Daily Mail. May 18, 1954.
  2. ^ History 153: West Virginia History. West Virginia University. Course materials posted by instructor, Dr. Ronald L. Lewis. Timeline: 13-14.
  3. ^ My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt: a Comprehensive Electronic Edition of Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" Newspaper Columns.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of White-Collar and Corporate Crime. Lawrence M. Salinger. Sage Publications, 2005, p. 178.
  5. ^ "Underwood on Marland." West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Ira J. Partlow
Attorney General of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Chauncey H. Browning, Sr.
Political offices
Preceded by
Okey L. Patteson
Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Cecil H. Underwood


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