Politician Antonio James Manchin (April 7, 1927-November 3, 2003) was born in the United Mine Workers barracks at Farmington. He was the fifth child of an Italian immigrant family. In 1948 at age 21, he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Delegates.
In more than a half century as a public official, Manchin would be chided as a flamboyant opportunist and hailed as a champion of the people. As a first-term delegate, he championed civil rights causes. That may have cost him reelection in 1950. He left office to become a schoolteacher. In the 1960s, President Kennedy named Manchin director of the state Farmer’s Home Administration. Later he was special assistant to the national director of FmHA.
Manchin often showed independence. He befriended many Republicans, including Governor Moore. After Manchin lost in his first run to be secretary of state in 1972, Moore in 1973 named him head of REAP, the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program. As a highly visible ‘‘junk czar,’’ Manchin removed with great fanfare thousands of cars, appliances, and old tires from the countryside. His grassroots style carried him to many schools, fire halls, and VFW posts in the state.
He was elected secretary of state in 1976. In 1980, he was easily reelected. In 1984, he was looked to as a possible gubernatorial candidate. He chose to run for state treasurer instead of opposing his friend Moore, with whom he later split. Manchin fell into trouble once elected. With a stock market downturn in 1987, Manchin bore much of the blame when the state lost nearly $300 million in investments for which he was responsible. He was impeached and resigned July 9, 1989.
Manchin’s political career was resurrected in 1998 when he ran for his old seat from Marion County for the House of Delegates and won. He was reelected in 2000 and 2002. Manchin’s nephew, Joe Manchin, was elected governor in 2004, and reelected in 2008. In 2010, he was elected to the U.S. Senate following the death of Robert C. Byrd.
A.J. Manchin died in Fairmont.
This Article was written by Norman Julian
Last Revised on May 20, 2013
Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vol. 13. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1976.
Icenhower, Greg. A. James Manchin: A Biography of Controversy. Terra Alta: Headline Books, 1990.