Skip Navigation

Sign In or Register


SharePrint Arch Moore


Arch Alfred Moore Jr. (April 16, 1923-January 7, 2015), a Republican from the Northern Panhandle, became the first West Virginia governor in 100 years to serve a second term, and he returned later for a third. He was the state’s 28th governor and also the first West Virginia governor to serve as chairman of the National Governors Conference. Moore was one of our strongest chief executives and among the most popular, and he became one of the most controversial. He served as governor from 1969 to 1977 and from 1985 to 1989. In 1990, he was imprisoned on federal charges.

Moore was a strong, aggressive leader who benefited from a constellation of factors that served to amplify his leadership. The Modern Budget Amendment, passed in 1968, made him the first West Virginia governor with full budget-making authority, and the Governor’s Succession Amendment (1970) made him the first in modern times who was able to succeed himself in office. Likewise, Moore benefited from abundant federal funds, especially for road building, and was fully able to exploit them thanks to the bonding authority provided by the 1968 Roads Development Amendment.

Moore was born April 16, 1923, at Moundsville into a Republican family. His grandfather, F. T. Moore, was a ten-term member and a minority leader in the House of Delegates. Arch attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and later West Virginia University. From 1943 to 1946, he served as an army infantryman and earned the rank of combat sergeant. He was severely wounded when a bullet struck the right side of his face and had to learn to talk again during his long hospital recovery. Moore later opened a law practice in Moundsville and was elected to the House of Delegates from Marshall County in 1952. He served only one term before trying for higher office.

In 1954, he made his first run at Congress, and was defeated by Rep. Robert Mollohan, a Democrat. Moore ran again in 1956, defeating Lee Spillers for the seat that Mollohan had abandoned to run for governor. Thereafter Moore won each time he tried, serving six terms in Congress from 1957 through 1969. He was elected governor in 1968.

Moore made a considerable amount of news in his first term as governor, mostly by his use of executive authority. For example, when 2,627 highway workers went on strike in March, demanding that the state recognize their union, he abruptly fired them. He became a key figure in the settlement of a national coal strike. His hand in the settlement benefited about 39,000 West Virginia coal miners who were out on strike.

During his tenure as governor, monthly welfare payments increased for about 20,000 families with dependent children. Meanwhile, other welfare payments were started for 13,000 blind, aged, and disabled West Virginians. And a $30 state clothing allowance reached about 44,000 welfare children in 1971 and 1972. Moore played an important role in getting hospital insurance for 61,000 public employees, including both state and county workers. He also led the fight to get pay raises of $1,500 for 17,000 public school teachers and somewhat smaller pay increases for other public school employees. He had legislation introduced to start public kindergartens for 30,000 five-year-old children. He pressured lawmakers to increase workers compensation benefits by as much as 75 percent.

There were six special legislative sessions during Moore’s first term, then a record. He often used special sessions to focus on legislation he really wanted.

The Roads Development Amendment, a $350 million bond amendment, was approved by the people in 1968 and gave Moore the money to match federal funds for highway construction. This was in addition to the money remaining from a $200 million bond issue, the Better Roads Amendment, approved in 1964. Thus, ample money was available for one of the state’s largest highway expansion programs.

Meanwhile, voters passed another constitutional change in 1970 that opened the way for Moore to become the first West Virginia governor to succeed himself since 1872. The Governor’s Succession Amendment was ratified with a vote of 213,758 for and 157,597 against. In the heavily publicized 1972 election, he won a second consecutive term as governor despite an almost two-to-one Democratic majority throughout the state. He gained national attention by defeating Jay Rockefeller, a bright new hope in the Democratic Party.

Moore won an unprecedented third term as governor in 1984, despite a stronger than expected challenge from former House Speaker Clyde See, a Hardy County Democrat. Moore got 53 percent of the vote. The victory marked his return to political office after a failed attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph in 1978 and a loss against incumbent Jay Rockefeller in a race for governor in 1980.

While Moore remained a popular figure and usually succeeded at the polls, his integrity came seriously into question in 1986. He faced repeated attacks, which he called ‘‘vicious and ugly.’’ Moore’s critics took him to task for not releasing his income tax returns and for dodging questions about alleged unethical behavior during his earlier terms as governor. In 1975, he had been indicted along with an aide on charges of extorting $25,000 from a company seeking a bank charter. He flatly denied the charge, and he and his aide were acquitted the following year.

Moore was criticized for a last-minute settlement of a $100 million lawsuit against the Pittston Coal Company for $1 million in cleanup charges for the Buffalo Creek disaster of 1972, a coal dam collapse that killed 125 people and left thousands homeless in Logan County. The state was left with an eventual debt of $9.5 million for the cleanup work when Moore made the $1 million settlement on January 14, 1977, just prior to leaving office.

During his final campaign, Moore refused to discuss these issues with the news media, and his opponent attacked him for it. But Moore still defeated See. He launched his third term as governor in 1985 by cutting workers compensation premiums by 30 percent, a pro-industry move that ultimately would contribute to a huge deficit in the program. In 1986, he helped end a deadly prison riot at the old state penitentiary in Moundsville by personally negotiating for the release of 43 hostages. As his term approached an end, he and Democratic leaders in the legislature deadlocked over the deteriorating state budget.

Worse was yet to come. Additional corruption charges were filed as Moore neared the end of his third term. In 1990, Moore was found guilty on federal charges of mail fraud, tax fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice. He was fined $3.2 million and agreed to pay $750,000 in the settlement. Moore was released from prison in 1993 after serving three years of a five-year, 10-month sentence. Upon serving his time and getting out of prison, Moore attempted to get his law license back but was unsuccessful.

Moore married the former Shelley S. Riley in 1949, and they had three children. Their daughter Shelley Moore Capito represented the Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 until 2015, when she became a member of the U.S. Senate. Arch Moore died January 7, 2015, one day after Capito was sworn in.

Two of Moore’s grandsons are also in politics. Riley Moore, the current state treasurer, is the Republican nominee for the Second District congressional seat in the November 2024 general election. Moore Capito, Shelley Moore Capito’s son, served in the West Virginia Legislature from 2016 to 2023; he resigned from the House of Delegates in December 2023 to focus on his candidacy for governor. He finished second to Patrick Morrisey in the 2024 Republican gubernatorial primary.

This Article was written by Richard S. Grimes

Last Revised on May 15, 2024

Cite This Article

Grimes, Richard S. "Arch Moore." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 May 2024. Web. 28 May 2024.


There aren't any comments for this article yet.

West Virginia Humanities Council | 1310 Kanawha Blvd E | Charleston, WV 25301 Ph. 304-346-8500 | © 2024 All Rights Reserved

About e-WV | Our Sponsors | Help & Support | Contact Us The essential guide to the Mountain State can be yours today! Click here to order.