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Political Consultant Matthew Reese Dies: December 1, 1998

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Legendary political consultant Matthew Reese died on December 1, 1998, at the age of 71. His political career started in 1948, when he helped Huntington’s Maurice “Bernie” Burnside get elected to Congress.

In 1959, he was contacted by John F. Kennedy’s campaign. Reese set up Kennedy’s West Virginia headquarters in the basement of the Kanawha Hotel in Charleston. He also campaigned around West Virginia with Kennedy’s brothers, Robert and Ted. JFK’s landmark victory in the state’s Democratic primary boosted his campaign by showing that a Catholic could win in a mostly Protestant state.

The victory also was a springboard for Reese, who went on to direct Lyndon Johnson’s national get-out-the-vote drive in 1964.

During his career, Reese worked on 450 campaigns, including ones for Tip O’Neil, John Glenn, Jay Rockefeller, and Nick Joe Rahall. After Reese’s death, the Washington Post described him as “a founder and godfather of the professional political consulting business.”

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