Matthew Neely was inaugurated governor on January 13, 1941—one of many political career changes for the Democrat stalwart.
The Doddridge County native opened a law practice in Fairmont in 1902. After serving as Fairmont’s mayor and in the legislature, Neely was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1913 and moved on to the Senate in 1922. He was bumped out of office by the Republican landslide of 1928 but returned to the Senate two years later.
Meanwhile, Neely was building one of the most powerful political machines in state history. During the 1930s, state Democrats split into two groups: one with pro-business lines and a more liberal faction with union support. Neely led the liberal faction and successfully launched the careers of many like-minded Democrats.
When Neely gave up the Senate for the governorship in 1941, he soon regretted the move. After only one year in office, he ran for the Senate again but was defeated.
He served out the remainder of his four-year gubernatorial term and later returned to both the U.S. House and Senate, dying in office in 1958 at age 83.