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Cecil H. Underwood
Cecil Harland Underwood (born November 5, 1922) is an American Republican Party politician from West Virginia, known for the length of his career. He was governor of West Virginia from 1957 until 1961 and from 1996 until 2001. He ran for reelection in 2000 but was defeated by Bob Wise. Interestingly, Underwood has the distinction of being both the youngest and oldest person ever to serve as Governor of West Virginia.
Underwood's 1956 election marked the first election of a Republican to the office since 1928. Underwood oversaw the desegregation of West Virginia schools without violent confrontation at all levels and was a supporter of civil rights legislation. The previous governors since 1932 had all been Democrats and members of a corrupt "political machine". His first act as governor was to go on the new medium of television and inform every state employee that they were fired. He stated that this was the only way to destroy the corrupt "machine" system. He later advocated an organized civil service and retirement pension system.
When presented with an order to desegregate the state's school systems, he, facing strong opposition from Robert C. Byrd, simply stated that "West Virginia will obey the Law."
The state Constitution prohibited governors from serving consecutive terms at that time, so he ran in 1960 for the United States Senate, but was defeated. He was nominated again for governor in 1964 but was defeated again, and then lost the Republican primary for governor in 1968. He was nominated again for governor in 1976 but lost yet again.
He then was elected again to the office in 1996. His main support in this election came from a group of moderate Democrats known as "Democrats for Underwood" who opposed his liberal opponent, who had run a write-in campaign against the Democratic nominee four years earlier, and had won a multi-candidate primary in this election cycle. His long sought second term was beset with economic problems. His moderate views were considered at odds with the modern Republican party. He was the only sitting Republican governor defeated for re-election in 2000.
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