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August 11, 1844: Gov. E. Willis Wilson Born

Emanuel Willis Wilson
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

West Virginia governor E. Willis Wilson was born at Harpers Ferry on August 11, 1844. The Democrat was elected to the state House of Delegates in 1869 and to the senate three years later.

After moving to Charleston in 1874, he again served in the House and became speaker in 1880.

In 1885, he rode a wave of rural discontent over taxes to become governor. Nicknamed “Windy” Wilson because of his stump-speaking skills, he staunchly opposed corporate privilege and the power of railroads. He also pushed for increased immigration to the state and greater voter registration to combat election fraud.

As governor at the height of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud, he fought vigorously with Kentucky’s governor to block the extradition of Hatfields from West Virginia and sued Kentucky to release Hatfields who’d been carried across state lines illegally. A grateful “Devil Anse” Hatfield named one of his sons Wilson.

He also was the longest-serving one-term governor in state history, remaining in office for four years and 11 months—until the disputed 1888 gubernatorial election could be decided.

“Windy” Wilson died in Charleston in 1905 at age 60.


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