John D. Rockefeller IV was born in New York City on June 18, 1937, just weeks after the death of his great-grandfather, business tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Jay—as the wealthy Rockefeller heir was known—first came to West Virginia as a poverty volunteer in the 1960s. He soon attracted national attention by switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966 and as secretary of state two years later.
After losing to Arch Moore for governor in 1972, he served as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College. In 1976, he won the governor’s office after spending a record amount on the campaign. During his eight years as West Virginia’s 29th governor, Rockefeller reorganized state government, fought to expand coal exports, and eliminated the sales tax on food.
In 1984, he defeated Republican John Raese for the U.S. Senate. During Rockefeller’s 30 years in the Senate, he promoted worker rights and health care issues and pushed to diversify West Virginia’s economy. He stepped down from the senate in 2015, ending nearly 50 years in public service.