March 25, 1878: Attorney General Armistead Abraham Lilly Born in Summers County

Mar 25, 2020

Credit e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

West Virginia Attorney General Armistead Abraham Lilly was born at Jumping Branch in Summers County on March 25, 1878. He had a meteoric rise in politics, becoming a state legislator at age 22, Raleigh County prosecuting attorney at 26, and state attorney general when he was 34.

As attorney general, Lilly appealed the Virginia Debt Suit to the U.S. Supreme Court. When West Virginia became a state in 1863, the new state’s leaders had agreed to assume part of Virginia’s existing debt. However, the amount owed was at question, so Virginia sued. The case dragged on until Lilly and Governor Henry Hatfield got involved in the 1910s. In settling the debt, it’s estimated that Lilly and Hatfield saved the state a large sum of money.

Lilly ran for governor in 1916 but lost the Republican nomination. He died in 1956 at age 78 in his penthouse atop Charleston’s Ruffner Hotel, of which he was principal owner. Cousin Abe Lilly, as he was known, left a lasting legacy by organizing the Lilly Reunion Association in 1929. The Lilly Reunion remains one of the largest family reunions in the state.