January 18, 1958: Senator Matthew Neely Dies
On January 18, 1958, Matthew Neely died in Washington, D. C., while serving in the U.S. Senate. Neely, who died at age 83, was one of the leading political figures in West Virginia history.
Over his long political career, the Democrat served two terms as mayor of Fairmont, five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, one term as governor, and parts of five terms in the U.S. Senate.
Perhaps most significantly, though, Neely headed the powerful pro-labor liberal faction of the state’s Democratic Party from the 1930s until his death.
After Neely’s death, Governor Cecil Underwood appointed Republican John Hoblitzell to fill the seat until a special election could be held. In the Democratic primary, former Congressman Jennings Randolph defeated William Marland, who’d recently left the governor’s office. Randolph went on to unseat Hoblitzell and serve 27 years in the Senate, stepping down in 1985. He was succeeded by Jay Rockefeller. In the same 1958 election that introduced Randolph to the Senate, Robert C. Byrd defeated incumbent Republican Chapman Revercomb, beginning what would become the longest Senate career in U.S. history.